Massive Injustice: Prison, Losing Homes, Children In Jail For Almost Nothing
We outlawed debtor prisons in the 1830s yet in about 1/3 of our states, people still go to jail for not being able to pay their medical, utility, car, or credit card debts, bail, or court fines or fees.
Some people start with debts of $5 to $40 and end up with fines and court costs of thousands of dollars, then jail time.
One Alabama circuit court judge scolded a local court and private probation company for jailing people over court fines and fees and called it a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.”
Nearly 500,000 Americans are in jail, innocent in the eyes of the law, just waiting for court hearings. Most of them are the sole breadwinners in their families. This just destroys families.
Many innocent poor people plead guilty to reduced charges and end up with a criminal record, just because they can’t afford bail.
Nearly 75% of people go to local jails for minor, nonviolent acts such as public intoxication, shoplifting or other traffic, property, or public order offenses but couldn’t afford to pay their fines or court fees.
We even have 10- and 11-year-old girls in jail simply because people trafficked them for sex, raping them and perhaps even sodomizing them!
In Virginia a young man with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia went to jail for almost 4 months for stealing just $5 worth of groceries, refused to eat, never got transferred to a psychiatric facility, and starved to death.
A high school student in the Bronx refused all plea deals because he insisted he was innocent of stealing a backpack and ended up spending nearly 3 years in jail before the court dismissed his case and released him. He never overcame the torment and killed himself.
Now banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank America, and hedge funds, buy up delinquent taxes or water or sewer bills or other local government fees from towns in auctions. Next, they add on high interest rates and legal fees, and foreclose on people who can’t afford to pay.
One woman whose husband just died lost a $280,000 house over $6.30 in unpaid interest she didn’t even know about. At the time of the house tax auction, she only owed $235, with other fees and interest.
A 95-year-old church choir leader with Alzheimer’s disease lost her family home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $44.79 while she was in a nursing home.
A retired Marine sergeant with dementia in Washington D.C. lost his paid off $179,000 home because of a $134 property tax bill when the extra fees added up to $4,999.
An unemployed woman in Baltimore with four children lost her fully paid off home because of a $362 water bill after investors took over and added thousands of dollars in legal fees she couldn’t afford.
Now our schools use police and security officers, so things schools used to handle like a child mouthing off or trying to run from a principal’s office can result in criminal courts or juvenile detention centers.
In Chicago, a security guard handcuffed a 6-year-old girl accused of taking a piece of candy and abandoned her in the dark under a stairwell near a boiler, resulting in the child fearing the dark and police.
Now children often go to juvenile detention for having a cell phone on school grounds, walking in a hallway at school without a hall pass, swearing, or dress code violations.
A child in Louisiana went to juvenile detention for 6 days for just throwing Skittles candy at another child on a school bus the day before.
A child with a previous problem can go to jail for talking back to a teacher or wearing the wrong color socks.
Chuck Falcon’s new book Rich & Peaceful: Progressive Politics details these abuses and more in the chapter Rigged Against Average Americans.
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