Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jails: Give Us Your Poor, Addicted, Debtors

Jails Have Become Warehouses for Poor, Addicted:

Jails across the country have become vast warehouses made up primarily of people too poor to post bail or too ill with mental health or drug problems to adequately care for themselves, according to a report issued Wednesday.
The study, “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America,” found that the majority of those incarcerated in local and county jails are there for minor violations, including driving with suspended licenses, shoplifting or evading subway fares, and have been jailed for longer periods of time over the past 30 years because they are unable to pay court-imposed costs.
Most jurisdictions today routinely issue and enforce bench warrants for unpaid traffic tickets, child support payments or probation/parole fines. Then they charge late fees and warrant fees on top of that. 

Only a moron would assume a person who doesn't have the money to pay his traffic ticket or child support would also have the money to pay the extra fees and fines associated with said violation. But this has nothing to do with sense, and everything to do with using our jails as debtor's prisons for the poor.
The report, by the Vera Institute of Justice, comes at a time of increased attention to mass incarceration policies that have swelled prison and jail populations around the country. This week in Missouri, where the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer stirred months of racial tension last year in the town of Ferguson, 15 people sued that city and another suburb, Jennings, alleging that the cities created an unconstitutional modern-day debtors’ prison, putting impoverished people behind bars in overcrowded, unlawful and unsanitary conditions.

The number of people housed in jails on any given day in the country has increased from 224,000 in 1983 to 731,000 in 2013 — nearly equal to the population of Charlotte, N.C. — even as violent crime nationally has fallen by nearly 50 percent and property crime has dropped by more than 40 percent from its peak.

Inmates have subsequently been spending more time in jail awaiting trial, in part because of the growing reluctance of judges to free suspects on their own recognizance pending trial dates, which had once been common for minor offenses.

As a result, many of those accused of misdemeanors — who are often poor — are unable to pay bail as low as $500.
As Michael Welch pointed out decades ago, the modern jail serves as a 24-hour, social sanitation warehouse...a place we can store the rabble, the "riff-faff," while scrubbing our streets free of the poor and destitute via the enforcement of class-based laws such as excessive traffic ticket amounts, falling behind on child support, or missing your fines/fees payment with a probation officer.

When all those efforts to shake you down legally fail, go directly to jail: do not pass go, do not collect, well, anything.

1 comment:

MRMacrum said...

Certainly an irony considering we claim to be the "Land of the Free".