Private dancer, dances for money. And that sums up a great deal of our prison industrial complex. The worst run prisons are often privately run, and the juvenile detention facilities that are are perhaps even more troublesome and worrisome. The secondary side is the probation and service sectors, from the absurd interlock devices on those terrible drunks who drive to the at home detention monitoring services. But the worst are the fines and fee collection servers who turn scofflaws into felons.
The article below from the Economist discusses the current bill in Georgia, since vetoed, with regards to the insane need to profit and in turn criminalize poverty.
America the grand will soon mean the grand you need to pay for a parking fine.
A juicy secret Apr 22nd 2014, 21:29 by J.F. | ATLANTA
WHAT happens when you get a traffic ticket? Probably much gnashing of teeth, perhaps a tongue-lashing from the spouse and a groaning eye-roll as you get your checkbook and slip a hundred of your hard-earned dollars into that orange envelope of shame. But what if you can't pay that ticket?
Well, in some states, including Georgia, you get passed over to one of dozens of private-probation companies. Since 2001 private companies have overseen misdemeanant probation, which includes not just minor crimes such as shoplifting, petty theft and public drunkenness, but also speeding tickets and other traffic violations.
Penalties for such crimes rarely exceed a few hundred dollars, but of course not everyone has a few hundred dollars. That's where private-probation companies come in. I've written about these fees before, but here's a quick refresher: if you get hit with a $200 ticket you can't pay, then a private-probation company will let you pay it off in instalments, for a monthly fee. Then there may be additional fees for electronic monitoring, drug testing and classes—many of which are assigned not by a judge, but by the private company itself. When probationers cannot pay, courts issue warrants for their arrest and their probation terms are extended—a reprehensible practice known as "tolling", which a judge declared illegal last year. These are folks who had trouble paying the initial fine; you have to imagine they'll have trouble paying additional fines. It's plausible to posit that these firms' business models are based on assigning unpayable fees to people who lack the sophistication, time, will or whatever to contest them. One might even say these predatory firms treat the long arm of the law as sort of lever on a juicer into which poor people are fed and squeezed to produce an endless stream of fees.
How much do these companies make? How well do they supervise their charges? Do they in fact deliver on their promises of efficiency? Who knows! They may do the state's business, but they are private companies, and hence not subject to sunshine or open-records laws. Human Rights Watch estimates that in Georgia alone private-probation companies rake in around $40m in fees each year (and remember, these are fees paid by people who could not pay a simple misdemeanor fine in the first place), but the fact is nobody really knows.
And if Georgia's legislature has its way, nobody ever will. House Bill 837 passed both chambers of the legislature and needs only the signature of Nathan Deal, Georgia's governor, to become law. The bill reads as though it were dictated by the private-probation industry—and indeed, in a deposition last year an executive from one of the state's biggest private-probation firms said his company spent around $500,000 on lobbyists in Georgia. HB837 reverses last year's judicial order banning tolling: not only does it allow the practice, but it places no limits on duration, meaning that a single traffic ticket could in effect turn into lifetime probation. It allows judges to request quarterly reports from a judicial circuit's private-probation companies detailing the number of offenders supervised, the amount and source of fees collected, the number of offenders who have successfully completed probation and the number of warrants sworn out each quarter, but it then shields this information from disclosure laws.
The initial draft of the bill reportedly contained planks limiting the monthly fees private-probation companies can charge (state entities charge $23 a month for felony supervision; private firms charge between $39 and $44 for misdemeanants), but a Senate committee took that plank out. By a strange coincidence, less than a week earlier that committee's chair, Jesse Stone, who is running to be Burke County State Judge, received a glowing letter of recommendation from the head of the very private-probation firm used by Burke County to supervise misdemeanor probation (Mr Stone insists the recommendation letter had nothing do to with what happened to the bill in the committee that he heads).
The one saving grace in this mess is that Mr Deal says he may veto the bill over concerns about transparency. He has one week from today to do so, or it becomes law without his signature.