US: For-Profit Probation Tramples Rights of Poor

Uhrra
By Uhrra February 9, 2014 13:47

(New York) – Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private companies that charge their fees directly to the probationers. Often, the poorest people wind up paying the most in fees over time, in what amounts to a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, companies can and do secure their arrest.The 72-page report, “Profiting from Probation: America’s ‘Offender-Funded’ Probation Industry,” describes how more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services. “Many of the people supervised by these companies wouldn’t be on probation to begin with if they had more money,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, senior researcher on business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. “Often, the poorer people are, the more they ultimately pay in company fees and the more likely it is that they will wind up behind bars.”Companies refuse to disclose how much money they collect in fees from offenders under their supervision. Remarkably, the courts that hire them generally do not demand this information either. Human Rights Watch estimates that, in Georgia alone, the industry collects a minimum of US$40 million in fees every year from probationers. In other states, disclosure requirements are so minimal that is not possible even to hazard a guess how much probation companies are harvesting from probationers in fees.

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Uhrra
By Uhrra February 9, 2014 13:47

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