Why Are We Criminalizing Poverty?

Why Are We Criminalizing Poverty?


THE ACLU IN NEW
HAMPSHIRE HAS RELEASED A REPORT SHOWING THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
THAT GET IMPRISONED BECAUSE THEY ARE POOR, AND UNABLE TO PAY FOR CITATIONS. LET’S SAY THAT THEY
ARE GUILTY OF A MOVING VIOLATION, LIKE SPEEDING,
OR RUNNING THROUGH A STOP SIGN, THEY WILL GET A TICKET THAT COULD BE
WORTH HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS. IF THEY CANNOT PAY FOR IT, THEY ARE
UNFORTUNATELY IMPRISONED AS A RESULT. “A NEW REPORT FROM THE
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE REVEALED THAT
IN 2013, THE COURT SENT DEFENDANTS TO JAIL IN LIEU OF A FINE IN AT
LEAST 289 CASES.” AGAIN, THESE ARE JUST PEOPLE WHO CANNOT
AFFORD TO PAY THEIR TICKETS, AND SO THEY GO TO JAIL. ONE
TRANSCRIPT INDICATES THAT A HEARING OVER A CRIMINAL
CASE STARTED AT 11:12 AM, AND WAS OVER AND 11:13 AM. IN LESS
THAN NINETY SECONDS, ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, THE JUDGE ACCEPTED THE DEFENDANTS PLEA IN
WHAT AMOUNTED TO A TRAFFIC TICKET, FINING $100, PLUS AN
ADDITIONAL COURT FEE, AND SENT HIM TO JAIL TO PAY OFF THE
FINE.” OFTEN TIMES IT HAPPENS, IF YOU TELL THE JUDGE YOU DON’T
HAVE THE MONEY, THE JUDGE WILL GIVE YOU THE OPTION OF COMMUNITY
SERVICE, OR YOU GO TO JAIL AND YOU PAY BACK FIFTY DOLLARS A DAY, EACH DAY YOU ARE IN JAIL.
EACH DAY IN JAIL EQUALS FIFTY DOLLARS, AND YOU NEED TO GO AS
LONG AS IT TAKES YOU TO PAY OFF THE FINE. BY THE WAY, IT ACTUALLY COSTS
MORE MONEY FOR THE STATE TO IMPRISON THESE PEOPLE. IT COSTS $100
TO KEEP AN INMATE IN JAIL.>>THIS IS DEBTORS PRISONS. THIS USED TO HAPPEN, AND
PEOPLE REVOLTED AGAINST IT. THEY WERE SO MAD THAT YOU WOULD GET PUT IN PRISON FOR BEING
POOR. WE ARE RIGHT BACK, WE HAVE ROLLED THE CLOCK BACK OVER
100 YEARS. SO, OF COURSE RICH PEOPLE ARE
NOT GOING TO DEAL WITH THIS. I GOT A TICKET? GONE.>>ITíS NEVER JUST $100. THE FEES THAT ARE ADDED TO IT
WILL INCREASE THE PRICE TO $300 IN SOME CASES, SO IT REALLY
DEPENDS ON WHAT THE COURT FEES ARE. THEY ACTUALLY COST MORE THAN THE
PRICE OF THE VIOLATION ITSELF.>>THAT SICKENING.>>I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU ONE
STORY THAT THEY PROFILED, THAT REALLY STOOD OUT TO ME. IT WAS
ABOUT A TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD WOMAN WHO IS A SINGLE MOTHER.
SHE HAS TWO INFANTS. THIS IS GRAPHIC TWENTY-EIGHT, HER NAME IS ALEJANDRA CORRO. APPARENTLY SHE PLED GUILTY TO A
REDUCED VIOLATION LEVEL OFFENSE, AND WAS SENTENCED
TO A FINE OF $1000, WITH $500 OF THE FINE SUSPENDED
ON THE CONDITION THAT SHE NOT COMMIT ANY CRIMES
FOR ONE YEAR. THE CRIME SHE COMMITTED WAS
SERIOUS, SHE STOLE MORE THAN $600 WORTH OF MERCHANDISE FROM A
SEARS BECAUSE SHE IS POOR, AND HER KIDS NEEDED CLOTHING. THAT IS STILL NOT AN EXCUSE, YOU
SHOULD NOT BE STEALING FROM ANY STORE. SHE PLEADED GUILTY, AND
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. “ADDITIONALLY THERE WAS A ONE HUNDRED
AND TWENTY DOLLARS PENALTY ASSESSMENT, BRINGING HER FINE TO
$620.” WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS, SHE
LET THE JUDGE KNOW THAT SHE CANNOT PAY THAT FINE, IT IS TOO
MUCH MONEY, SHE IS A SINGLE MOM WITH TWO CHILDREN. THE JUDGE SAID, THAT IS FINE, I
AM GOING TO MAKE YOU DO SIXTY-TWO HOURS OF
COMMUNITY SERVICE. SHE DID ABOUT TWENTY HOURS OF
COMMUNITY SERVICE, AND THEN HER HOUSE BURNED DOWN IN A FIRE
AND SHE HAD NOWHERE TO LIVE. SHE IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
WHERE TO LIVE, EVENTUALLY SHE ENDS UP IN HER
MOTHER’S HOME. SHE GOES BACK TO COURT AND
SAYS, I WANT TO FINISH THE COMMUNITY SERVICE, I KNOW I HAVE
NOT FINISHED IT BY THE DUE DATE, BUT GIVE ME MORE TIME
AND I WILL FINISH IT. THE JUDGE SAYS NO,
NINE DAYS IN PRISON. SHE GOT SENTENCED TO NINE
DAYS, THE ACLU GOT INVOLVED AND GOT
HER OUT AFTER ONE DAY. THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN
THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW.>>SINCE SHE STOLE SOMETHING I
AM LESS OUTRAGED, BECAUSE SHE COULD HAVE GOTTEN PRISON TIME ANYWAY FOR THAT. BUT WHEN IT IS
A TRAFFIC TICKET, SOMETIMES PARKING TICKETS SNOWBALL INTO A
BIG DEAL. SOMETIMES PARKING TICKETS ARE SOLD TO PRIVATE
CORPORATIONS. THEY FINE YOU, BUT TECHNICALLY YOU OWE THE
GOVERNMENT BECAUSE THEY BOUGHT IT OFF THE GOVERNMENT. IT’S NOT
A PRIVATE DEBT, WHICH YOU CANNOT GO TO PRISON FOR, IT IS A PUBLIC
DEBT. YOU CAN GO TO PRISON FOR THAT. BECAUSE OF A PARKING TICKET,
THEY THROW YOU IN JAIL. THAT IS CRAZY. TRAFFIC TICKETS, THESE
ARE THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT GO TO JAIL FOR. BY THE WAY, WHEN YOU
ARE IN JAIL, A LOT OF TIMES THEY HAVE YOU WORK AT PRISON WAGES.
FOR LESS THAN ONE DOLLAR AN HOUR, AND THEN SOMEONE MAKES MONEY OFF OF THAT. AND IN SOME PLACES THERE ARE
PRIVATE PRISONS, AND THEN THEY MAKE MORE MONEY
OFF OF THAT.>>IT DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU END UP. IF YOU ARE IN A COUNTY JAIL, YOU
ARE UNLIKELY TO HAVE TO DO THAT. IF YOU END UP WITH A LENGTHY
PRISON SENTENCE, THEN YES, YOU END UP WORKING FOR NO
WAGE AT ALL, BASICALLY.>>THE OVERALL POINT, DON’T GET
ME WRONG, IT’S NOT LIKE, OKAY THEY ARE GOING TO GRAB EVERYBODY
UP AND IT IS GOING TO TURN INTO SLAVE WAGES, THAT DOES HAPPEN ON
A MACRO SCALE, UNFORTUNATELY BECAUSE OF OUR WAR ON DRUGS, BUT
IT IS NOT NECESSARILY A CONSPIRACY. THE REAL PROBLEM
IS, THE DEVALUATION OF HUMAN BEINGS. THE JUDGES, AND THE SYSTEM, DOESN’T SEE ALEJANDRA,
OR THE OTHERS, AS PEOPLE WHO WOULD BE IN THEIR FAMILY. FOR
THEM, IN THE JUDGE’S FAMILY, IF SOMEONE WENT TO JAIL FOR NINE
DAYS, IT WOULD BE LIKE, OH MY GOD, PRISON FOR NINE DAYS, ARE
YOU OKAY? PEOPLE WHO COME INTO THEIR
COURT WITH NO MONEY OR POWER, DISPOSE OF THEM. WHERE DO YOU BELONG? PRISON, GO.
PRISON, PRISON, PRISON. YOU DO A REAL CRIME, YOU
SHOULD SERVE TIME. BUT NOT FOR TRAFFIC TICKETS, NOT
PARKING TICKETS, NOT FOR NONSENSE LIKE THIS. YOU CANNOT BRING BACK
DEBTORS PRISONS.