Monday, July 2, 2012

The Fine Society’s Debtors Prison

  Covering the class action lawsuit of lead plaintiff Richard Earl Garrett against the town of Harpersville, Ala, New York Times reporter, ETHAN BRONNER, essentially described how today debtors prisons evolved from our communities’ dependence on revenue. Titled Probation Fees Rise, Firms Profit and the Poor Go to Jail, besides Mr. Garrett’s decade of public debt turmoil, a woman is told about who was fined $179 for speeding and then failed to show up in court because the ticket bore the wrong date so her license was revoked. When pulled over the next time, of course, driving without a license, her fees had added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed and charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.
  Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Camp; Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., has spent a great deal of time on the issue. Her assessment is, “With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice. Companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”
  The Times reporter notes half a century ago in a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled the accused had to be provided a lawyer if they could not afford one. But in misdemeanors, the right to counsel is rarely brought up, even though defendants run the risk of jail. While probation companies promise revenue to the towns, saying they also help offenders, defendants still often end up lost in a legal Twilight Zone.
  William M. Dawson, a Birmingham lawyer and Democratic Party activist, filed the lawsuit for Mr. Garrett and others against the local authorities and the probation company, Judicial Correction Services that’s based in Georgia. Interviewed, Mr. Dawson said, “The Supreme Court has made clear that it is unconstitutional to jail people just because they can’t pay a fine.” Something most all of us had seemed to already accept as part of a civilized society.
  In Georgia three dozen for-profit probation companies operate in hundreds of courts where there have been similar lawsuits. In one suit an Iraq war veteran, who lost his job, was jailed for failing to make $860 a month child support payments. Another victim of circumstances, with a monthly income of $243 in veterans’ benefits, was charged with public drunkenness, assessed $270 by a court and put on probation through a private company. The company added a $15 enrollment fee and $39 in monthly fees. That put his total for a year above $700, which the person struggled to meet before being jailed for failing to pay all his debt.
  John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Georgia, who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall said, “These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay he is going to jail. There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.”
  The issue of using courts to produce income was investigated in a recent study by the nonpartisan Conference of State Court Administrators, “Courts Are Not Revenue Centers.” The report said in traffic violations, “court leaders face the greatest challenge in ensuring that fines, fees and surcharges are not simply an alternate form of taxation.”
  Plus Scott Vowell, the presiding judge of Alabama’s 10th Judicial Circuit, said his state’s legislature, like many, was pressuring courts to produce revenue, and that some legislators even believed courts should be financially self-sufficient.
  A Fine Society.
  The Times article also noted a 2010 study, by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, that examined the fee structures in 15 states, including California, Texas and Florida, with the largest prison populations. The sudy found, “Many states are imposing new and often onerous ‘user fees’ on individuals with criminal convictions. Yet far from easy money, the fees impose severe and often hidden costs on taxpayers and indigent people convicted of crimes. Creating new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts by making it harder to find employment and housing as well as meeting child support obligations.”
  Over a decade ago many states abandoned pursuing misdemeanor fees because it was time-consuming and costly. Companies such as Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity by charging public authorities nothing and making their money adding fees onto the defendants bills. 
  Yale Law School’s Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said courts were increasingly using fees “for such things as retirement funds for various court officials, law enforcement functions such as police training and crime laboratories, victim assistance programs and even courts’ computer systems. In one county in Pennsylvania, 26 different fees totaling $2,500 are assessed in addition to the fine.”
  Mr. Dawson’s Alabama lawsuit also alleges that Judicial Correction Services does not discuss alternatives to fines or jail and that its training manual “is devoid of any discussion of indigency or waiver of fees.”
  In a joint telephone interview, two senior officials of Judicial Correction Services, Robert H. McMichael, its chief executive officer, and Kevin Egan, its chief marketing officer, rejected the allegations. 
  They said the company does try helping those in need, but that the authority to determine who is indigent is the court’s and not the company’s. “We hear a lot of ‘I can’t pay the fee,” Mr. Egan said adding, “It is not our job to figure that out. Only the judge can make that determination.” Mr. Egan said, “Our job is to keep people out of jail. We have a financial interest in getting them to comply. If they don’t pay, we don’t get paid.” Mr. Bright, of the Southern Center for Human Rights, complained that with the private companies seeking a profit, courts in need of income and the most vulnerable caught up in the system, “we end up balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest people in society.”
7/12/2012
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March 14 - 29, 2016
The Fine Society's Debtors Prison
7/13/2012 concluded: Mr. Bright, of the Southern Center for Human Rights, complained that with the private companies seeking a profit, courts in need of income and the most vulnerable caught up in the system, “we end up balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest people in society.”
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Bob Herbert's excellent documentary.
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Genius @ financing crime, not solutions.
  The Fine Society's not as fine as it should be. Though as polished as only success can be. The problem's not that we can't dig deeper for a handle on the bottom line. The divvy up's just stuck in divvy up.
  Sigh. We all like waking to feeling bad things aren't happening in our directions. In our way. But that it happens at all is a neglect that's gone unfazed because immorality's to blame. What a dodge. Another one Allah/God probably didn't think up for us. Another juicy conundrum thought up all on our own. Dismissing Matthew 7:1, judge not, that ye be not judged. 
  Enforcing crime's a protection from having not solved the dilemma's roots. But don't scapegoat cops, or anyone. No one particularly designed our cultural flaws that everyone needs benevolently gotten innocently through to an end to the dehumanized Criminal Enterprise System. Let's Get Civilized

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Sold Judge Gorsuch and
What Eating Your Leveraged Sandwich Means

  Fed digestible sound bytes. Dialogue's become extremely crafted presentation. Response, an edged approach. Agitation a format. ...
  Straight-laced's a plus. But, to start, the candidate for the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch, does seem to restore the patriarchy with a subtle grace behooving such a powerful blow. Technically: Ethical, but another endorser of the Criminal Enterprise System. Except that the court's responsibility is to face the truth. Not stretch principle to endorse mere veneers of respectability and practicality that choke life of all its' beneficial diversity. Liberal and responsible and not just contrarian ruthless harda__.  
  And that's how it goes with this issue considered bigger than all of us. The methodology behind criminalizing behavior to enforce an ideal of moral rectitude, that's not only indifferently judgmental, but self-flagellating all across the board populated by finks and desperate, even conspiring legal, characters. 






some brooks babble more than others
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Politics and Sports!
Poll Says 70% of Country Approves of our 
President's State of the Union Address 

  Tuesday, February 28, 2017, President Trump presented a more polished list of promises, that's said to have been worked over by his daughter Ivanka. Morning News Radio, I heard, suggested issues were talked about when what each point had in common was their just being mentioned, as usual. Aren't we redundant? Such as suggesting "clean water" when business before ecology interests are already shown to be of paramount concern to the administration. An antagonistic essayist might suggest the president is mocking ecological interests. As if swiping the nuisance off with the back of an empirical hand. 
  Not that business interests aren't important. It's just, as in the case of West Virginia, where enough profit wasn't reinvested to distance that state from dependence upon coal jobs when cleaner methods of fuel usage have been developed for a few decades at least. West Virginia University makes runs at national collegiate sports championships, (Final 16, 2017). But the state's lack of economic diversity, and grassroots strength, is the sore spot everywhere else as well. 
  But I digressed. The speech's only declaration that received full bipartisan applause, lauded a fallen soldier whose sacrifice will be honored "for eternity." Directly ignoring the basis behind which the jargon entrenched religious war festers. That people need brought out of the fog from. "Love thine enemies" disregarded, and chest beating religious war, the cause behind all our becoming kindling for the causes. End the Cycle of Revenge.
  Of course the big issue, as huge financial nut, is Health Care. Insurance technically succeeded as socialism for the rich without the bottom line drain caused by the poor. But over the decades insurance was the excuse for charging more, such that cost had no real relation to affordability, for anyone, at all. Leaving us with a system whereby doctors as an individual entity have no real power. A labyrinth of bureaucracy that's not faced as government's the convenient scapegoat for bureaucratic failure. Obamacare's compromise with an industrial skim is, most probably, being replaced by yet another skim.
  So just as bankers bail out businesses when too big to fail, the American public has to bail out the promises. While where credit's taken, is what the people get.
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My Satisfaction With Tim Raines' Induction Into The Baseball Players Hall of Fame 

  Late September 1976, the season's first Sanford Seminole High School Seminoles football game, versus Oviedo, was my first and, possibly, last sidebar interview as a sportswriter. The Sanford Herald's Head Sportswriter complimented me for getting an interview with Tim Raines, who'd been reluctant to give interviews since, as Tim told me, no one ever quoted him accurately. Though still just a senior in high school. The plight of the local sports hero. Right. You can hear everyone not crying in unison over that one. But something he genuinely felt.
  Anyway. Since my high school swim coach, Coach Terwilliger, told Tim, the year before, that I'd concerned myself with our dual meet schedule so Tim would have at least one school team winning season to appreciate team success, Tim stunned me by preparing a place in front of his locker for, me to sit and, us to talk all alone after the locker room cleared. Fond memory of how neighbor, Kenny Lee, was go between, because I was too shy to ask or politically shrewd because everyone liked Kenny. While protocol tends toward song and dance.
  But what happened was, during the game, someone told me that, as a sportswriter, I had access to behind the end zone, when no one else did, and what I saw literally amazed me. Tim running very fast around right end, at mid-field, evaded a reach by instantly accelerating to extremely fast and that touchdown blew me away. But I went into a funk for weeks, knowing Tim had a bright future. The idea of his success ground down my pursuit of outside endeavors, understanding my allegiance was to studying history. 
  So as Tim's career was misshapenly portrayed as having fallen short of the hall, I bothered to know better. Owners scapegoating players for rising consumer prices is when Tim sacrificed his prime-of-life numbers to stand firm for the rights of players who'd invested their lives in the game. So when it's said Tim finally made the hall, my belief is he was always there. It's just the real numbers, recognizing that fact, finally grew up. Huh, sportswriters?

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