For-profit probations strips poor people of their rights

Every year, courts throughout the United States sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private probation companies that often charge ridiculous fees directly to the probationers. Often, poor people end up paying the most in fees over time, in what can be called a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, these companies can and do arrest them. More than 1,000 courts throughout the US give these private companies the power to overlook the probation of the offenders.

Usually, the main reason people get out into probation is that they didn’t have the money upfront to pay court fees to begin with, so they get screwed either way. “Many of these people supervised by these companies wouldn’t be on probation, to begin with if they had more money,” says Chris Albin-lackey, a senior researcher on business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. Such companies don’t disclose the amount of money they collect in fees from offenders who are under their supervision and the courts who implement these programs don’t require them to disclose it either.

Some estimate that companies collect upwards of $40 million a year from probationers under the supervision of these companies. These companies are often appealing to courts because they “supervise” low-level offenders and implement fees no cost to the US taxpayer. Usually, those who get put on probation are because they require supervision and motoring, but simply courts assign this so that they can chase the probationer on collecting fees.

These offenders wouldn’t have been put on probation, to begin with, if they had the money in the beginning, to begin with. 

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