Written in Ink

Fuck You: For Profit Probation and Justice System

Entry 6: For profit probation companies and justice system.

I finally got around to reading the very troubling Sarah Stillman New Yorker piece from earlier in the summer about the for profit probation companies and halfway houses that are essentially Dickensian debtor's prisons. How they work is penalizing minor offenders—people who don't pay a traffic ticket or steal a pack of cigarettes or something that isn't a felony—for their own court costs. Because of strapped government budgets, the offenders have to pay themselves all the legal fees to keep a court running. This is called "offender-funded justice" and its prevalent in many states. The bills are higher than the cost of the original offense. If the person cannot pay, and usually these for profit companies target the poor, they get sent to jail.


The article focuses on the sad tale of an Alabama woman, but there's also a mini-story about a man who stole a two dollar can of beer. He had to wear an ankle bracelet for a year while trying to pay off more than a thousand bucks to the company that took over his case, and operated the ankle bracelet. He didn't have the money so he started selling his own plasma.

In addition to probation company abuses—which are being looked at by the federal government and the victims have started class action law suits—there is the private company halfway house, and its own abuses. An Oklahoma company operates with rampant physical abuse in its mens' home (punishment for offenses, because otherwise the punishment would be to send the inmates to state jail, depriving the company of money based on the population count) and in its womens' homes, where the company sent many women to a particularly rapey Quizno's work-release job.

There's a cartoon, presumably about the World Cup, in the middle of the article with this punchline: "What is it about an unfavorable soccer outcome that makes me want to wreak immediate havoc in the streets?" Replace "unfortunate soccer outcome" with this article, and you have a sense of my feelings once I started reading. In many ways, America is a Third World country. I don't think many Americans know it is. Politicians never bring it up, or are deluded enough not to know themselves. But, we're draconian, medieval, heartless, ruthless in a lot of ways. Hopefully stories like this from reporters like this will change that someday.


So a Fuck You to the for profit justice and penal system.

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