You've served your time-Now pay your bill

This is the title of a recently released article concerning the debt prisoners can acquire while being prisoner-a debt that cannot be paid while in prison because, well


The article further states that inmates are charged for their own incarceration in 49 states, and in 46 of those states failure to pay puts you back in prison. It gets even worse in the 20 states where probation and parole are privatized:

In my opinion this “system” is wrong-it keeps people in debt and increases recidivism.
What do you think of the current system as it stands?

“Oh, hey, Warden, this place is super great–really!–but I just don’t think I can afford to stay here. There’s a nice Motel 6 over by the Interstate, so I’ll just head over there, kthnxbye!”

It’s almost like America ISN’Tstruggling with the ongoing disaster of ‘for profit’, medicine.

Like, it’s going so well, let’s introduce a profit motive to the prison system!

(For profit prisons must be kept to a high capacity or the state pays million dollar penalties!)

‘For profit’ police and fire services cannot be for off, I should think.

People think it’s just the under class, the truly disenfranchised that are being victimized. But that could change.

Not only is it morally wrong, it may very well be illegal under the SCOTUS’s decision Bearden v. Georgia.

Here’s a summary of the decision:

These fees are usually targeted at drunk drivers who have very short sentences and are not poor.

Where are you getting this from?

It’s not even about the revenue, it is about preventing people from rejoining society as productive members. The sentencing guidelines are not enough, people need to be punished further, and forever, for their crimes. Serving time for your crime is not enough punishment, your life needs to be ruined. You can never be allowed to succeed at anything.

You can find yourself starting down this path simply by picking up one violation that you cannot afford to pay. Got a $200 speeding ticket, and don’t have the cash to cover it? Well, that’s fine, because now there are hundreds of dollars more in penalties to incentivize you to pay it.

What’s that, increasing the financial penalty isn’t enough to squeeze blood from a stone? Then we should also restrict your freedom, charging you for that service as well, that’ll make you pay up.

Even those who have committed crimes that are deserving of some level of incarcerative punishment should be allowed to move on with their life once they have demonstrated repentance and repayed society with their time. Now, they are being asked to repay society’s taking away of their time with money.

If inmates are allowed to choose their housing and accommodations, choose their probation or parole services, and decide which ones best meats their needs along with their financial capability, then sure. If an inmate wants a double sized cell with no roommate, then they can pay extra for that. If a parolee wants a P.O. who will make housecalls, rather than having to go to to the P.O., then they can pay extra for that.

The housing and services that are mandated by the justice system, however, should not be charged.

If that means that the criminal justice system isn’t as profitable to private interests as it currently is, that’s a feature, not a bug.

It’s not really as outrageous as it sounds when you think about it.

If somebody is driving too fast and runs a pedestrian over, wouldn’t you say it’s reasonable to expect them to pay for the associated medical expenses? A person who does something wrong should be expected to pay the financial costs for the consequences of their wrong doing.

So if somebody is driving too fast, gets arrested and convicted, why isn’t it reasonable to expect them to pay for the associated law enforcement expenses? That person did the same wrong as the first person. Don’t they have the same obligation to cover the costs of the consequences?

Does it suck to go into debt for all of those costs? Yes, it does. But the costs are real; prisons cost money to operate and somebody has to pay for them. So should it be the criminal who broke the law and created the necessity of imprisonment? Or his next-door neighbour, who never broke any laws?

In an ideal world, nobody would break any laws or commit any crimes. We’d have no need for police or courts or prisons. But in the real world, crimes are committed and we need these things. So why not put the expense of them on the people who are breaking the laws and creating the need for them?

We all pay the cost of the prisoner’s incarceration. That’s what taxes are.

Many of us also feel we should cover the cost of the pedestrian who gets run over. That’s called universal health care.

I don’t think the prisoner should have to pay the state back for their incarceration. However, I could see this making sense as a way to pay back victims for their losses. Perhaps it could be some sort of sliding scale based on the convict’s income, where they pay nothing if their income is below a certain amount and a gradually increasing percentage the higher their income goes. So if they only have low-paying jobs, they don’t pay anything back. But if they get a job that pays $100k, some of that would go back to the victims.

No, the process appears to be more general. From the article: [INDENT] In Rhode Island from 2005 through 2007, failure to pay court debt was the most common reason that individuals were incarcerated, which means that, in a state that routinely spends around $200 million on corrections every year, the most common reason for incarcerating people there was something other than crime. [/INDENT]

In other news civil asset forfeiture is strongly related to a) higher local budget deficits and b) race. Jurisdictions with more blacks and hispanics experience more shakedowns by the cops.

Of course that’s only one mechanism. There lots of ways city police departments can plug budget gaps: You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

If you have money, for example, you can easily get a speeding ticket converted to a non-moving violation. But if you don’t have money it’s often the start of a downward spiral that is hard to pull out of:

[INDENT] For a simple speeding ticket, an attorney is paid $50-$100,
the municipality is paid $150-$200 in fines and court costs, and the
defendant avoids points on his or her license as well as a possible
increase in insurance costs. For simple cases, neither the attorney nor
the defendant must appear in court.

However, if you do not have the ability to hire an attorney or pay
fines, you do not get the benefit of the amendment, you are assessed
points, your license risks suspension and you still owe the municipality
money you cannot afford….If you cannot pay the amount in full, you 
must appear in court on that night to explain why. If you miss court,
a warrant will likely be issued for your arrest.

People who are arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in court
to pay the fines frequently sit in jail for an extended period. None of the
municipalities has court on a daily basis and some courts meet only
once per month. If you are arrested on a warrant in one of these
jurisdictions and are unable to pay the bond, you may spend as much as
three weeks in jail waiting to see a judge.

Of course, if you are arrested and jailed you will probably lose your job and perhaps also your apartment–all because of a speeding ticket. [/INDENT]

As for the OP, no I don’t have a problem with that policy. I see no reason why people shouldn’t be punished with both imprisonment and the equivalent of fines later on. I can imagine judicial systems implementing such policies that are fair.

I can also imagine a blue unicorn. I see no evidence that the situation described in the OP is consistent with responsible and well thought out policy.

If the money is going into the public’s coffers to help to make victims hole, or to repay society, that’s one thing. I still don’t see the reason in punishing someone for a crime for the rest of their lives, punishing them far in excess of what the sentencing guidelines are, but the convicted doesn’t get the right to say how they repay society for their infractions.

Does it change your equation at all that the money is going to increase private profits?

For one thing, does this kind of retribution just increase costs for society at large? Putting ex-cons out into society with no reformation, education and loaded with debt is a recipe for them to end up homeless or involved in crime again, which increases costs for society at large.

Also a lot of us are cynical about ‘personal responsibility’ since it only applies for people who aren’t rich and powerful. Powerful companies generally do not have to pay for the damage they cause society at large. Polluters do not have to pay for the cost of pollution. Financial institutions do not have to pay for the damage from reckless behavior. But some lower middle class worker who gets into a car accident does. This mentality that the rich can do whatever they want but everyone else has to live in a brutal, draconian system isn’t appealing to most of us.

Jails being a for-profit business NECESSARILY means that jail owners are encouraging crime. They are living off the avails of crime, if that terminology is used in the US.

In other words, owning a jail is not at all far from aiding and abetting.


It’s a shame in this country how one bad mistake snowballs into the ruination of your life and impossibility of gainful employment for some.

Can we just admit that we are criminalizing poverty?

If you don’t criminalize poverty, then people won’t have an incentive to not be poor.

Huh…and I’m a crank for distrusting LE and the justice system in general.

In general, LE and the justice system uphold the basics of civilization.

There are, however, many specific implementations of LE and “justice” that do not lead toward the ends of a more just and equitable society. Those are the ones that we are calling into question in an effort to improve.

That I would rather have our current justice system than anarchy doesn’t mean that I do not see many improvements that can be made.