One of the problems with underfunding our nation's infrastructure, alongside archaic drug laws and ticket-quota-based law enforcement, is the need to ease city and state's financial burdens. Privatization always promises that this can be done efficiently and fairly. In this great new tradition came the concept of privatizing probation. What can go wrong?
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a person sentenced to probation cannot then be incarcerated simply for failing to pay a fine that they genuinely cannot afford. Yet many misdemeanor courts routinely jail probationers who say they cannot afford to pay what they owe—and they do so in reliance on the assurances of for-profit companies with a financial stake in every single one of those cases.Did you say "misdemeanor"?
In Georgia, Thomas Barrett pled guilty to stealing a can of beer from a convenience store and was fined US$200. He was ultimately jailed for failing to pay over a thousand dollars in fees to his probation company, even though his entire income—money he earned by selling his own blood plasma—was less than what he was being charged in monthly probation fees.
How can this happen?
[T]hey arise because public officials allow probation companies to profit by extracting fees directly from probationers, and then fail to exercise the kind of oversight needed to protect probationers from abusive and extortionate practices. All too often, offenders on private probation are threatened with jail for failing to pay probation fees they simply cannot afford, and some spend time behind bars.The promise of this privatization scheme is the creation of an offender-funded court system. In the end it turns out that you're guilty until your credit report proves otherwise.