Justice Shouldn’t Come With a $250 Fine – The New York Times

“Too often, this is the case. The fine for a misdemeanor is typically about $1,000, which can be unmanageable for a low-income person. This comes on top of many other costs. The application fee a defendant must pay to hire a public defender (appointed because a person charged with a crime cannot afford to pay for an attorney) can be as high as $400. Jail booking fees range from $10 to $100. In some states, defendants can be made to pay fees upward of $200 for the juries who hear their cases. After conviction, victim’s panel classes, where some defendants are mandated to hear about victims’ experiences and loss, can cost up to $75. Drug courts can and often do make people pay for their own assessment, treatment and frequent drug testing.”

DL: Yes. Jim Crow is alive and well, and for poor whites as well.
Here is the top comment, I endorse:

Mark Thomason is a trusted commenter Clawson, MI 14 hours ago
A family member was wrongly accused of shoplifting. There was video. It clearly showed no shoplifting. She won.

Then she got the bill from the court for the assigned public defender — four times more than the fine would have been, over a thousand dollars.

The fine print in Michigan says that the public defender “provided” as required by the US Supreme Court “if you can’t afford one” will bill you after the case, even if you win, and that becomes a court judgment against you.

You can be jailed for non-payment of the defense attorney bill for a case you won, or so the judge threatened her.

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Courts Sidestep the Law and South Carolina’s Poor Go to Jail – The New York Times

“SUMTER, S.C. — Larry Marsh has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Homeless, he has no place to go. The police in this city have arrested or cited him more than 270 times for trespassing. In December, they got him four times in one day.

For this misdemeanor offense, Mr. Marsh, 58, has repeatedly served time in jail, and was even sent to prison. Not once has he had a lawyer.Being represented by a lawyer is a fundamental right, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment and affirmed by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that anyone facing imprisonment, even for a minor offense, is entitled to legal counsel. But the promise has been a fragile one, with repeated complaints that people without means are stuck with lawyers who are incompetent, underfunded or grossly overworked.

In municipal courts that handle low-level crimes, poor defendants can face a worse problem: no lawyer at all. Recent reports detail a failure to provide lawyers in Nashville and Miami-Dade courtrooms, and in 2015, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held hearings on the issue, saying the right to a lawyer was frequently ignored in misdemeanor cases.”

Kamala Harris and Rand Paul: To Shrink Jails- Let’s Reform Bail – The New York Times

“Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old New Yorker, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack in 2010. To ensure he would show up for trial, and because of a previous offense, the judge set bail at $3,000. But his family could not afford to pay. So Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island to await his day in court. He spent the next three years there before the charges were dismissed. Haunted by his experience, Mr. Browder hanged himself in 2015.

Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.”

Yes, and here is an excellent comment I support:

Geri Padilla Huntington Beach, CA 1 hour ago

It is heartening to read about a bipartisan bill that addresses the inequities of the current bail system. Thank you to Kamala Harris and Rand Paul for their efforts on behalf of the poor who can’t afford bail, not to mention the exorbitant cost of maintaining so many awaiting trial.

Reply 30 Recommended

Mothers in Prison – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“TULSA, Okla. — The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.

“She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to a wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13-year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview.

Of all America’s various policy missteps in my lifetime, perhaps the most catastrophic was mass incarceration. It has had devastating consequences for families, and it costs the average American household $600 a year.

The United States has recently come to its senses and begun dialing back on the number of male prisoners. But we have continued to increase the number of women behind bars; two-thirds of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. America now incarcerates eight times as many women as in 1980, and only Thailand seems to imprison women at a higher rate.”

Source: Mothers in Prison – The New York Times

This is a magnificent piece by Nick Kristof. Read it and cry, and get involved in solutions.
One of my favorite comments:
Anires California 2 days ago

“There were so many strong points in this article, but perhaps my favorite was this:
“It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.”

It’s easy to dismiss the women here and coldly say they got what they deserved. But a little compassion and understanding would really go a long way. It could have easily been me in prison had I not been blessed with a loving and economically stable family. As a society we should help them overcome the darkest moments of their life instead of making it impossible for them to become contributing members of society.

Thank you, for shedding light on this.”

122 Recommended

Want to shrink prisons? Stop subsidizing them. – The Washington Post

“Hilary O. Shelton is director of the NAACP Washington bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy. Inimai Chettiar is director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

When our next president enters the Oval Office, she or he will be faced with two questions: First, how to make a mark as president? Second, how to break through gridlock in Congress?Prioritizing reducing our prison population is one way to achieve both goals. Most Republicans and Democrats agree: Mass incarceration devastates communities of color and wastes money. Even Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan see eye-to-eye. Committing to such reform in the first 100 days would make a lasting and imperative change.”

Source: Want to shrink prisons? Stop subsidizing them. – The Washington Post

A Formula to Make Bail More Fair – The New York Times

“The group Equal Justice Under Law sued the city last year, arguing that the old approach to bail violated equal protection under the Constitution by keeping poor defendants in jail while letting wealthier ones accused of the same crime pay their way out.

The new scoring system, developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, uses nine factors to estimate risk, including a defendant’s age, whether the charge is a violent offense, prior convictions and previous failures to appear in court. It does not take into account race or gender, and judges still have the final say in setting bail.”

Source: A Formula to Make Bail More Fair – The New York Times

Unlocking the Truth About the Clinton Crime Bill – The New York Times

“Politically, crime had become one of the most divisive issues in the country. Republicans called for an ever more punitive “war on drugs,” while many Democrats offered little beyond nebulous calls to eliminate the “root causes” of crime.

President Clinton took a different approach, working with like-minded Democrats, including Mr. Schumer and Joseph Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill they devised actually reduced sentences for federal drug crimes by exempting first-time, nonviolent drug offenders from the onerous “mandatory minimum” penalties created under earlier administrations. It funded specialized drug courts, drug treatment programs, “boot camps” and other efforts to rehabilitate offenders without incarceration. It allocated more than $3 billion to keep at-risk young people away from gangs and the drug trade.”

Source: Unlocking the Truth About the Clinton Crime Bill – The New York Times

Righting a Grave Injustice in Louisiana – The New York Times

“The Supreme Court had people like Taurus Buchanan in mind this week when it reinforced a 2012 decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles and found that people sentenced before that ruling had a constitutional right to seek parole.The Buchanan case, documented in an investigation by The Marshall Project and Mother Jones magazine, illustrates what the court meant when it found that it was morally and constitutionally wrong to equate emotionally undeveloped children with adults. It also offers a lesson in how the country went terribly wrong in the early 1990s when it erased some of the legal distinctions between children and adults in the interest of getting “tough on crime.”Mr. Buchanan, who is 39 and an inmate at the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, was just 16 when he was convicted of second-degree murder for throwing just one punch during a street fight, leaving a 12-year-old boy dead. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.”

Source: Righting a Grave Injustice in Louisiana – The New York Times

Connecticut’s Second-Chance Society – The New York Times

One day last month, Dannel Malloy, the governor of Connecticut, was sitting with a small group of inmates at a New Haven jail, where he had gone to announce a new job-training program for prisoners nearing their release date.“We’ve got to develop a society that’s a little more forgiving and you’ve got to fly right,” Mr. Malloy said to the men, according to The New Haven Register. Taken together, these two ideas capture the essence of the reformist philosophy Mr. Malloy has brought to Connecticut’s criminal justice system during his five years in office.Under his leadership Connecticut has repealed the death penalty, legalized medical marijuana, and passed some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And over the past 12 months, the state has become a remarkably productive laboratory for justice reform as Mr. Malloy continues to push for government transparency, societal mercy and individual responsibility.

Source: Connecticut’s Second-Chance Society – The New York Times

What Mass Incarceration Looks Like for Juveniles – by Vincent Schiraldi, The New York Times

“After two decades of researching mass incarceration — and advocating for its demise — I decided in 2005 to take more direct action and accepted a job running corrections departments, first in Washington, D.C., then in New York City. It was a rude awakening.The juvenile corrections department in Washington had about 1,000 clients, about 200 of whom were confined to a detention facility, and a staff of 800. For the previous 19 years, the department had been under a court order for unconstitutional conditions; I was the 20th leader in that time. In the year prior, two scathing reports, one by the district’s inspector general and another from plaintiffs’ experts, detailed appalling conditions: Beatings of children in custody were commonplace, inmates stuffed clothing around the toilets to keep out rats and cockroaches, young people were locked up for so long that they often defecated or urinated in their cells. Youths who came in clean tested positive for marijuana after 30 days of confinement, suggesting that it was easier to score drugs in my facility than on the streets of the District of Columbia.”

by Vincent Schiraldi, who is a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice.

Source: What Mass Incarceration Looks Like for Juveniles – The New York Times