Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More creeping feudalism

The machinery of law enforcement is being put to the task of extorting people for the benefit of private partners.
The suit, filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights, charges that Red Hills Community Probation conspired with local police in two small Georgia towns to jail poor people without any court approval or legal authority, effectively holding them for ransom.

The plaintiffs, who live in Bainbridge and Pelham, GA, were ordered by the court to pay exorbitant fees for misdemeanor offenses. Edwards pleaded guilty to burning leaves, while others were told they needed to pay hundreds of dollars for speeding, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, and driving with a suspended registration.

At this point, these stories are reminiscent of reports coming out of Ferguson and the surrounding area, where municipalities exploit a murky labyrinth of court fees and traffic tickets to make money off poor defendants. But private probation companies like Red Hills, which are used by more than 1,000 court systems in ten states, further feed on these moneymaking schemes by tacking on their own share of fees. In Pelham and Bainbridge, the suit alleges, the probation firm went even further, committing false imprisonment and fraud, among other charges.
This is actually the rare public policy area where Jefferson Parish is actually doing better than much of the country at this point.  But only because they've learned the hard way.

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