Petition Closed
Petitioning State Representative Michael Caldwell and 10 others
1 response

End For-Profit Private Probation of Misdemeanor Cases in the United States

Court systems without revenue stream incentives, are less likely to criminalize our youth!

Georgia, and other state, House and Senate Members have allowed too much authority to the privately held FOR- PROFIT probation companies, who are utilized to collect fines, and, quite frankly, look for reasons to collect more fines and make more money for corporate gain - for MISDEMEANOR citations. This is criminalizing our youth into a never ending system that gives unethical incarceration for non-violent crimes!

The United States Supreme Court in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983),made it clear that courts cannot imprison an indigent person for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the failure to pay was “willful.” Too often, however, this constitutional rule is ignored. Courts across the South routinely impose substantial costs on already poor people who are struggling to get by, then incarcerate them for being too poor to pay.

Incarcerating Indigent Misdemeanants

The Municipal Court in Gulfport, Mississippi was one such court. In an effort to crack down on people who owed misdemeanor fines, the City of Gulfport employed a fine collection task force. The task force trolled through predominately African-American neighborhoods, rounding up people who had outstanding court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding at which no defense attorney was present or even offered. Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting just seconds. While the City collected money, it also packed the jail with hundreds of people who couldn’t pay, including people who were sick, physically disabled, and/or limited by mental disabilities. SCHR filed suit to stop these illegal practices. For a copy of the Complaint, click here. For related news coverage, click here.


ACLU Report: 2010 report, 'In For a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons.'

"Courts are breaking the law by holding defendants in contempt of court for failing to pay fines without proper notice or allowing an attorney to be present, the report said. Courts are also issuing arrests warrants for people who fail to show up and pay their fines and jailing defendants who are too poor to pay, according to the report.

 

Letter to
State Representative Michael Caldwell
President of the United States
Georgia State Senate
and 8 others
Georgia State House
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives
State Representative Patty Bentley
State Representative Karen Bennett
State Representative Paul Battles
State Representative Charles Gregory
Georgia Governor
On behalf of our teenagers, young adults, and the future, of our children, in the State of Georgia, and United States of America, we, the Citizens of the United States of America, demand that OUR court systems are returned to the fairness given to all in the US Constitution!

State House and Senate Members have allowed too much authority to the privately held FOR- PROFIT probation companies, who are utilized to collect fines, and, quite frankly, look for reasons to collect more fines and make more money for corporate gain - for MISDEMEANOR tickets. This is criminalizing our youth into a never ending system that gives unethical incarceration for non-violent crimes!

Our young adults and teenagers have been targeted by law enforcement in recent years, being detained, more often than not, with a lack of probable cause, and handcuffed by the car loads (even on private property) prior to being searched and breathalyzed without any choice. We, the parents, personally feel that all citizen's should be PROTECTED, not stalked and targeted, by officers; however, recent changes to patrol cars, indicates that city and county officials are looking for an income stream! Our teenagers and young adults are often stopped for no particular reason; albeit, officers state "seatbelt" or tag light - then detained and illegally searched!

This is a common practice in Cherokee County, GA, where the majority of our young adults, (8 out of 10, I'd guess) are on misdemeanor probation or have been on misdemeanor probation and jailed numerous times for being unable to pay fines and the companies are without any regulation and do not answer for their continuous unethical behavior while jailing our young adults for being poor, then tacking on astronomical fees! (Which I am told can not be reconciled in statements). This type of activity is an everyday, if not every hour, occurrence's, in our communities all over Georgia (and other states - listed below) because, quite frankly, our judicial systems are profiting a great deal. It is understandable why so many city courts are cropping up in small-town Georgia - its a profit center of endless tickets and misdemeanor probation kickback and "slave labor/community service" revenue stream.
Our youth/young adults should not be targeted because probation companies and courts, across Georgia and other states, earn profits for criminalizing them! These privately held companies heard hundreds of young adults in and out of their offices to collect money and threaten them when they can not. Private probation companies are not required to provide any services to their clients. They are not monitored or regulated and they certainly DO NOT counseling their clients/offenders into becoming productive law abiding citizens!

As politicians, looking out for the needs of your constituents - please stop forcing our communities into a never ending cycle that promotes criminalization for misdemeanors! STOP SETTING OUR YOUTH UP FOR FAILURE!

Please take privatized probation for misdemeanor crimes out of our municipal court systems! Do not allow municipal courts more than minimal collection of fines for any offense! Hardened criminals that can not be rehabilitated should be behind bars or on strict probationary supervision. Probation opportunities for non-violent offenses should have very limited terms and condition, and any oversight fines and/or fees should benefit the opportunities to assist in a successful outcome!

Power to violate any probationary term, in any case, should be sought in State Court with Certified Court Judicial Oversight and should never EVER be allowed to handle misdemeanor fine collection, through threat of incarceration, unless financial circumstances are investigated and a complete refusal to pay exists!

OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEMS SHOULD NOT BE PRIVATIZED!

FEES AND FINES OF THESE PRIVATELY OWNED COMPANIES ARE OUT OF HAND AND THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY!

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PROBATION SHOULD BE TO CREATE AVENUES FOR SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION AND REVENUE BASED SYSTEMS ARE UNACCEPTABLE!

Cited case information described below:

State Government Corruption: Georgia’s Poor Ensnared in the Private Probation System“Middle Georgia, along with the rest of the state’s private probation industry, owes much of its business to BOBBY WHITWORTH, who was Georgia’s commissioner of corrections until 1993, when a sex-abuse scandal involving female inmates forced him out. Gov. Zell Miller promptly reassigned him to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which positioned him nicely for a side job consulting with a private probation company called Detention Management Services. Three years later, in December 2003, a jury found Whitworth guilty of public corruption for accepting $75,000 from the company to draft and lobby for legislation that dramatically expanded the role of private probation companies. Whitworth was sent to prison for six months, but the law remains on the books, and the private probation industry—led by Georgia’s two most powerful Republican lobbyists—has lobbied to be given felony cases as well. That plan has run into opposition from law enforcement: One sheriff told lawmakers last year that among his peers, private probation was seen mostly “as a moneymaking fee-collection service.” Another said there is generally “not a lot of emphasis on supervision as much as there is on collection." –taken from the Probation Profiteers article in Mother Jones Magazine, 2008
The encroaching privatization of the criminal justice system is especially problematic because the primary motive of these business is their bottom lines rather than the communities they serve. Having the justice system be infected with profit motive produces a conflict of interest. If the source of a private probation company’s revenue comes from crime, then what incentive is there on the part of the company to help prevent crime? If anything, they would wish that there would be more crime and their lobbyist do a good job of lobbying state officials to make more minor violations into misdemeanors.

By reading this article you are already doing something to stop this foolish law from remaining on the books. Spreading knowledge of this injustice along with having more Georgians demand their local representatives to act are some of the best ways to end this scam. Remember that the prominence of private probation companies is due to Bobby Whitworth’s accepting of bribes so that the role of private probation companies may be expanded. It is sickening to think of how many Georgians are living in fear due to their inability to pay and the looming debt that keeps Georgia’s poor right where the elite wants them to be, in poverty.

For the entire “Probation Profiteers” article that was cited earlier, click here http://motherjones.com/politics/2008/07/probation-profiteers