Links from a Prison Nation

Links from a Prison Nation December 13, 2014

A round-up of stuff I’ve been reading.

“The Protester”: Raven Rakia writes a powerful piece which I think probably functions as a Rorschach test. Do you focus on the rules this guy breaks, or the colossal overreaction he faces when he breaks them?

When Frankie was 13, school authorities at his middle school called the police in to deal with him for disrupting class. Two police officers ended up physically restraining him: They hogtied his legs and tied his hands behind his back, duct-taped his mouth, and pepper sprayed him.


“Georgia’s Highest Court Limits Power of Private Probation Industry”: Here’s an example of what counts as a “win,” I guess.

…Today the Supreme Court of Georgia cracked down on one company that, with the blessing of local courts, has extended probationers’ sentences when they cannot pay the fees.

In a unanimous opinion, the court also affirmed the constitutionality of state courts using private contractors to administer probation for misdemeanor offenders and of courts imposing the use of ankle monitors on those offenders. …

The ruling comes in a case against Sentinel Offender Services. The company extended the sentences of people who had committed misdemeanors in Columbia and Richmond Counties. Longer probation period meant more fees.

Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams does not consider that a viable solution. “If they couldn’t afford $130, why would we assume they can afford $270?” says Abrams. “I think that becomes usury, and that becomes anathema to and conflicts – at its base – with our core responsibilities as government.

The Supreme Court’s ruling instructed the plaintiffs, misdemeanor offenders who had paid what they considered excessive fees to Sentinel, to go back to the trial court to try to recover those fees. There is a possibility this case will become a class action suit, which could mean Sentinel would have to pay back millions of dollars of probation fees.

more; for background there’s this. (My super brief comment here.)

A tribute to Dollree Mapp, “the Rosa Parks of the Fourth Amendment”:

Mapp’s life was as colorful and momentous as her death was quiet. She went from being a single teenage mother in Mississippi to associating with renowned boxers and racketeers in Cleveland to making her way in New York City, where she launched one business after another. “Some of them were legitimate, and some of them were whatever they were,” said her niece, Carolyn Mapp, who looked after her aunt in her final years. Along the way she tangled with police, and when she stood up to them in Cleveland – a black woman, staring down a phalanx of white officers in the 1950s – she made history.

more–a terrific read

“Ferguson to Increase Police Ticketing to Close City’s Budget Gap”:

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

The strategy by the St. Louis suburb, which suffered a second round of violent protests last month after a grand jury refused to indict the police officer, may risk worsening community relations with increased citations and weakening its credit standing by reducing a rainy-day fund. …

Two bills that were pre-filed last week in the State Senate would limit what municipalities can collect from public-safety fines.

‘‘For Ferguson to respond to all of this and say that increasing ticketing was a good idea is outrageous,” Scott Sifton, a Missouri state senator who sponsored one of the pieces of legislation, said in a telephone interview.

more–and if you’re not already thinking, “Come on now,” read this.

“Decadeslong Arrest Wave Vexes Employers”: One-third of Americans have a criminal record.

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