The reliance in some cities on the cycle of arrest, jail, bail, plea, fine and possibly jail again if you don’t pay up has caught the unflattering attention of the U.S. Justice Department.Ferguson is a few years in the past now. But it's worth remembering the whole context there was a municipal government funded through systemic victimization of the poor by law enforcement.
Just how all that money is divvied up in New Orleans, and to what extent unfortunate arrestees get caught up in government agencies’ demand for it, is the subject of a study now underway by the Vera Institute of Justice.
The aim, Vera says, is to show which agencies take a cut of the money, see how much lands where and “tally the fistally the fiscal impact of these practices, including from increased jail time, on the city’s budget.”
In New Orleans, different types of fees are split differently among various agencies, and issues over collections from Traffic Court and Municipal Court once prompted a lawsuit by Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office.
A scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department last year concluded that the municipal court system in Ferguson, Missouri, “primarily uses its judicial authority as the means to compel the payment of fines and fees that advance the city’s financial interests.”And this sort of thing is common all over the place. It was the subject of one of John Oliver's more popular segments last year.
Has anything changed? Well, not really. But, hey, we're gonna do some more studies now. So that's something.