As N. P. R. reported in May, services that ‘were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,’ are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D. N. A. sampling. This can go to extraordinary lengths: in Washington state, N. P. R. found, offenders even ‘get charged a fee for a jury trial – with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.’
– From Tuesday’s New York Times op-ed, The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism
We’ve all heard about the private prison industry by now. An idea so insane and so rampant with perverse incentives that no civilized society would ever allow such a concept to take hold. Yet taken hold it has in the Banana Republic formally known as America.
The private prison industry and the giants that dominate it, such as GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, have disturbed me to the point that I have written several articles on the destructiveness of the concept. If you need to get caught up, the most significant post I wrote on the topic was: A Deep Look into the Shady World of the Private Prison Industry.
Naturally, a society that embraces private prisons would also embrace the privatization of all sorts of other things that have no business being privatized due to perverse incentives. One such example with which I was unfamiliar until today are private probation companies. These companies are seemingly vested with the power to threaten jail in order to collect payments. Additionally, constitutionally protected rights that were previously free are now being charged to those mired in the ‘justice’ system.
Columbia University professor of journalism, Thomas B. Edsall, brought this issue to the forefront in his excellent New York Times editorial. Some excerpts below:
This post was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg on Aug 28, 2014.