Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein | Alabama Takes From the Poor and Gives to the Rich – The New York Times

Mr. Kaiser-Schatzlein, a journalist, writes frequently about economic policy, inequality and criminal justice. For this essay, he spent four months reporting on fines and fees in Alabama.

“In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.”

Opinion | Georgia’s Voter Law Is Called ‘Jim Crow 2.0’ for a Reason – The New York Times

Mr. Ward is a historian who has written extensively about the civil rights movement, the South and politics.

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Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Getty Images

“Seventy-five years ago this July, a World War II veteran named Maceo Snipes reportedly became the first Black man to cast a ballot in his rural Georgia county. The next day, a white man shot him in his front yard, and Mr. Snipes would soon afterward die from those wounds.

Fortunately, three generations removed from the political reign of terror that claimed Mr. Snipes’s life, voter suppression seems much less likely to arrive by bullet. But we may not be as distant in our political moment from theirs as we might think: The long struggle to block access to the ballot has always relied on legal maneuvering and political schemes to achieve what bullets and bombs alone could not.

What legislators in Georgia and across the country have reminded us is that backlash to expanded voting rights has often arrived by a method that our eras share in common: by laws, like Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, passed by elected politicians.

Opponents of the new Georgia law denounce the legislation as “Jim Crow 2.0” precisely because they recognize the continuities between past and present. The bill’s most ardent supporters, who lined up in front of a painting of a building on the site of an antebellum plantation to watch Gov. Brian Kemp sign it into law, seem less interested in distancing themselves from that past and more eager for Americans to forget it.” . . .