If this program were one of integrity and justice, it should not have a problem exposing its complete workings to its citizens. Notwithstanding the possibility of unreported history here, this stinks.
>Darrell Bridges says he earned almost $2,000 working at Checkers during his stint in the Pascagoula Restitution Center in 2013. But the money was never applied to the $3,403 debt he owed from an attempted robbery when he was 17, records show.
>As a worker makes money, the corrections department takes the first cut in room and board, then usually holds the remaining earnings until there’s enough to pay the entire debt. When someone leaves the program, the corrections department sends their earnings to the court to cover its costs. It distributes the rest to victims, then to pay criminal fines.
Indefinite debt bondage is unjust in any form, but the state and its agents reserving for itself the lion share of this feast of blood and life is especially reprehensible.
Our current state of government scares the hell out of me.
If a poor person commits a crime, that's not serious enough to throw them in jail, what should the legal system do?
It seems like "If you're poor, you can commit non-felony crimes without consequences" seems like a REAL bad policy idea.
I would think throwing someone in jail who owes money for a fine is very counter productive, considering how much it costs to incarcerate and jail someone. It's like spending $5000 to not collect a $500 debt. We aren't very good at government.
> The State of Mississippi had locked Husband into a modern-day debtors prison.
Let’s agree that this sort of punishment is potentially not conducive to restorative justice.
But what justification is there for the article to deceive the reader with a comparison to debtors prisons?
The EU Convention on Human Rights bans debtors prisons. It states: "No one shall be deprived of his liberty merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation." Restitution as punishment for a crime does not arise out of a “contractual obligation.” It arises out of a criminal conviction.
Where the debt comes from matters why exactly?
The prison should be for one purpose only: to make society safer. If someone is dangerous enough to be in prison, they should not be out regardless of whether they owe money or not.
In other words, if you can't buy your way out of prison, a debt should not bring you into one.
No. The meaning of words matters. Words, used precisely, are how people with different values and beliefs can communicate and reach agreements in a functioning society. When journalists, who are supposed to inform and educate the public, twist the meaning of words in order to make a point, that’s wrong.
> Where the debt comes from matters why exactly?
Because a debt arising from a criminal conviction requires the convicted person to have engaged in a wrongful act in the first place. Mere failure to pay a civil debt does not.
> The prison should be for one purpose only: to make society safer
Views about the proper role of prisons vary widely. Most people believe that prisons are for punishing people for doing bad things. Note that by your reasoning, many people who do very bad things should not be imprisoned because there is no risk of recidivism. Women who murder their abusive husbands, for example, are almost never going to go and murder someone else. By your reasoning, they shouldn’t go to prison to punish them for their murder.
That's a reasonable position to take, actually. Depends on the level of abuse, I'd say. https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/07/europe/uk-sally-challen-intl-...
It may be true that the deterrent is justifiable because it's also a legitimate form of punishment (for instance, saying "If anyone kills their spouse this year, I'll skin this puppy alive" might be a deterrent, but it's probably unjust), but it's not acting as punishment alone.
A punishment fails as a deterrent if:
+ it is not expected
+ it is not understood
+ it is not net negative
The first, not expected, fits when; one believes their actions are legal and then they are found not to be (correctly or incorrectly); one expects a different punishment to the one given, and the expected punishment was not a deterrent (often seen in fraud cases).
The second, not understood, fits when one expects the punishment but failed to understand its impact on them. For example, those incarcerated may misunderstand the lasting trauma of loss of privacy, agency, and family.
The third, not a net negative applies in cases where the punishment is deemed an acceptable risk or cost, or even desirable. Desirable has repeatedly been the case for the extremely impoverished or ill. Acceptable cost is seen in many corporate dealings, but mainly speeding and parking tickets for the individual. Acceptable risk is even more the corporate case (legal departments evaluate legal risk constantly) but is also the case for career criminals and moonshot criminals.
> + it is not expected + it is not understood + it is not net negative
Also if it is not expected to be avoided if the behavior sought to be deterred is avoided. The perception that a punishment is applied arbitrarily or with prejudice on grounds other than the behavior notionally justifying it defeats its value as deterrent as surely as a lack of perception that it will be applied if the behavior occurs.
Witness Vinod Khosla and his battles: he has expected fines, understands them (though disagrees), and the net negative is (in his case) so trivial as to be negligible.
"Oh, you want to fine me $10,000/day? Well, go for it. By the end of my life that might amount to 3% of my net worth".
Besides desperation, there's also passion and mental instability. There's enough cases where you might just not be thinking about the potential punishment at all when committing a crime, meaning it doesn't deter you. For mental instability, we as a society have mostly decided we're okay with reducing/eliminating punishment (and perhaps that you should be institutionalized instead); for passion we generally haven't decided that, except perhaps with the concept of "temporary insanity."
Sure, and (unless wikipedia is lying) the words "debtor's prison" have for centuries included the imprisonment of people unable to pay court-ordered judgments, as well as private debts. Per that definition, the article's usage is correct.
(You can certainly make the argument that the situation described in the article doesn't meet the specific "contractual obligation" language in the EuCHR's definition, but that has nothing to do with your claim that the article is misleading people.)
A society that puts people in jail for not having $13000 to pay is not a "functioning society".
>Because a debt arising from a criminal conviction requires the convicted person to have engaged in a wrongful act in the first place. Mere failure to pay a civil debt does not.
If the convicted should go to jail, they should go to jail from a conviction for the wrongful act itself -- not for not being able to pay the debt created by it.
Debtors prisons don't make sense for normal debts, but a fine for embezzlement is not the same thing at all. The $13,000 isn't really a debt as much as it is a punishment. The real question is whether the corrections system passed up an effective opportunity to garnish normal wages - but I can imagine a lot of practical issues with that approach.
I've little doubt the situation in Mississippi is dodgy, but these aren't debtors prisons. These are strange ordinary prisons.
EDIT Hah, nevermind turns out I didn't know what a debtors prison was. Thanks fenomas.
No, there's forfeiture for that.
If you refuse; the assets should be seized from you and the fine paid that way.
If you are unable to, then the fine is, ipso facto, excessive.
In either case penal slavery is not an appropriate answer.
A criminal fine that it is impossible to pay with the person's actual means without impairing access to the basic necessities of life when the fine is imposed (including reasonably anticipated future income if the required mechanism of repayment allows it to be paid over time from future income), and no matter whether it is characterized as restitution or otherwise, no matter how it relates to past criminal gains, is excessive, and penal slavery (whether or not permitted by the 13th Amendment, which sets the bounds of what is legal but not what is moral) for inability to pay such an excessive fine compounds the injustice with gross violation of the most fundamental of human rights, and even more incarceration without penal slavery for inability (as opposed to refusal and obstruction when the means we're available) to pay would be piling injustice upon injustice.
This whole line of argument about the use of the term debtors' prison not being accurate because of the circumstances of this one individual, as if her situation were the only being considered is so useless. Stop trying to detail the focus with the distraction. She was one example. People are thrown into those prisons (and simply indebtedness in general in other states) simply for being unable to pay arbitrary fines and fees. That she also got sent to that prison for a debt does not make it no longer a debtors' prison,
The prohibition on excessive fines has it's roots in the Magna Carta. (quoting from the Timbs vs. Indiana Supreme Court decision) "...Magna Carta required that economic sanctions "be proportioned to the wrong" and "not be so large as to deprive [an offender] of his livelihood."
Yes, correct, thanks for setting out that argument. The organization Survived and Punished advocates for exactly this, because the argument you're making is sound: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survived_and_Punished https://survivedandpunished.org/
Explain again, how that is the article's fault, "deceiving us" into feeling a "restitution center" is a "debtor's prison".
There are people there who have crimes other than/as well as financial obligations. But there are also those who solely have the financial side.
Your argument is that because it's not a "civil debtor's prison", it doesn't count. But that's you inserting that qualifier. Historically, debtor's prisons were used both criminally and civilly.
You're correct in that words do matter but entirely incorrect in your position, this is a debtors prison, it's literally in the name...
> Wiki: "A debtors' prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt."
Also starting a reply with "No" makes you seem like an asshole and invalidates much of your credibility and people's desire to hear you out. The GP had a well reasoned (and correct) response to your original comment but you proceeded to devalue it with 2 letters.
Since he followed that "No" with several paragraphs, that's a moot point (not to mention much ruder that his reply, what with "makes you look like an asshole" and stuff).
And, no, "no" is not something that makes people look like assholes. It's just an expression of opinion -- whether accompanied by a justification/arguments or not. Even on its own, that is, without further arguments, it's still useful as a kind of "poll" (how many commenters agree or disagree with a thesis).
At worse, it's curt.
And the line between civil and criminal is often drawn in a peculiar way: Repeat copyright violation enough and somehow it's criminal not civil, but systematically fail to pay artists their royalties it remains civil forever. Embezzling $1000 is criminal, keeping $1000 out of an employee paycheck is a civil.
This is functionally what debtors prisons were used for
From the wiki summary:
> Destitute persons who were unable to pay a court-ordered judgment would be incarcerated in these prisons until they had worked off their debt via labour or secured outside funds to pay the balance
So I'd sue you and the judge would award me $10,000. But he would award me the $10,000 as court ordered judgement which is the legal instrument that proves you owe me money.
So that line doesn't mean quite what you think it means.
I guess my point was that you could end up there for civil or criminal things.
But also to the very premise of theft, if I take $13,000 which I had access to from my boss but was not supposed to take, that is criminal (fair). But if my boss takes $13,000 from me, because he is a lousy cheapskate who decides to not pay me fairly for the time which I worked. That is a civil matter? Hell, in this case it is not even a civil matter, they are allowed to only pay her $4 an hour. 92 weeks of cheap forced labour.
Seems to me these words are all just used to reinforce the status quo.
She went to jail because she stopped going to her probation appointments.
She said her probation officers threatened her: "Next time you come in and you don’t have any money, you’re going to jail."
Fearing she would be thrown in prison for nonpayment, she stopped reporting.
FWIW it is the "European Convention on Human Rights", drafted in 1950, usually abbreviated as ECHR (with its court being ECtHR). It is distinct from the EU, being a product of the Council of Europe.
Whereas the founding document for the EU (Treaty of Rome) was signed in 1957.
As for the EU, it has its own "Charter of Fundamental Rights", somewhat based upon the ECHR, but I can't spot a reference to debts or contractual obligations.
The ECHR would not forbid this Mississippi practice, as Articles 4 and 5 allow it. Similarly Articles 5 & 6 of EU CFR would also seem to allow this practice (read the explanatory notes).
Please clarify just what Convention, or Charter it is you are referring to, and which body created it.
ECHR - https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Collection_Convention_195...
Article 4 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_4_of_the_European_Conv...
Article 5 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_5_of_the_European_Conv...
EU CFR - https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=OJ:...
Yeah, this isn't debtors prison; it is penal slavery.
Not that it makes it any better.
> The EU Convention on Human Rights bans debtors prisons
It unconditionally (unlike the US Constitution) bans slavery, too.
I'm not sure what bearing “The EU Convention on Human Rights bans...” has on the facts here; not only does the Convention not apply here, but even if it did what the law prohibits has no bearing on what the facts actually are.
Once someone has been released from prison they have fulfilled their obligation to society. Sentencing them to prison again solely because they owe money from a previous sentence is a perversion of justice and an absolute farce. They are sent to prison because they owe a monetary debt.
Sure, but the Convention does not define the term "debtors' prison," however much you may want to imply that it does.
It merely says what you quoted; it says that this particular thing is a human right. It does not close the door to debtors' prisons that do not violate human rights but are still odious in civilized society; it certainly does not close the door to violations of human rights that are not enumerated in the Convention, perhaps because some party to the Convention wishes to continue violating human rights. The argument "Because the Convention doesn't ban it, it must not be a debtors' prison" is just as sound as saying "Because the 13th amendment doesn't ban it, it isn't slavery." Forced labor as punishment for a crime is permissible in the United States, and it's still slavery, of course.
The meaning of words matters, and a lawyer, of all people, ought to use words precisely when speaking about justice and imprisonment.
Nonsense: she was punished for embezzling $11,000 from her place of employment.
This is quite literally forced indentured servitude, or what I normally call "slavery." This is fucking slavery.
At no point should one be forced to work before or after they've already paid their "debt" to society; extreme circumstances not withstanding (i.e. you still have a billion dollars after serving your time and can easily afford to pay back your debt). At no point, should ANYONE, be required to be imprisoned, worked, and have daily wages withheld for the "cost" of that imprisonment, furthering their imprisonment-- this is straight up a fucking violation of human rights and theft, the interest rate on the withholding is very likely not paid back, but I'm 100% sure they (prison owners or faction in that industry) profit on it.
Where can I donate what little money I have to stopping this fucked up practice and making it illegal? Maybe I missed it in the article due to the increasing amounts of (naive) disbelief and (pure) rage I encountered as I read it.
Weird wording. The fact that the debt has not been paid is why they're working, no?
My dad's accountant embezzled from his business.
The person spent all the money over the years and by the the time they were caught, there was little left. And unfortunately, that's a pretty typical story. (FYI, business insurance may or may not cover internal theft; that's often a separate policy or a rider.)
In the end, the crime netted a hefty sum at the expense of the victim.
If you take something, you should have to give it back.
IDK what this vague "debt to society" is; I just know my dad is out $100k+.
At minimum wage pay, with ~20% of his earnings going to pay down the debt that's effectively a life sentence. My question to you is, does that seem fair for what is essentially a white collar, non-violent crime?
Edit: I do think the system they have going on is absolutely ridiculous, especially considering the infrastructure costs when it's only being used for "more than 200 people" (which I'm assuming means less than 300). But some of the responses here from bleeding hearts are insane.
It seems the very definition of equitable.
(That said, I do think that the restitution amount can be adjusted, and courts do that. I object to the idea that 0% is appropriate.)
We're always quick to criticise other countries for the failings or bad design of their justice system and lack of respect for human rights, but are we much better? We might be better on paper, but is that actually reflected in reality? I'm not so sure.
Hell, shut down the restitution centers and use that budget to help cover court fees instead!
Think about it: if someone gets fined $10,000 and is working minimum wage, is there really anything good accomplished by trying to recover that much? Just cap out some wage garnishment scheme if you want to fine them.
She also skipped her meeting with her probation officer, more than once, and she didn't report to the probation officer (or the court, whatever) that she got an increase in income, when she got her job at Harrah's. Funny, that.
They don't mention that in the article, do they.
Here's the hearing transcript: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6598211-Annita-Husba...
- even if they are just about that, do you think that a debtors prison is going to get that money back sooner?
- given how being broke in America is basically a death sentence, I have empathy for people trying to scrape by
- (now we’re in income reporting reform!) why isn’t Harrahs reporting the wage increase? Why even give opportunities for lies/mistakes/omissions?
Even if what you said is true, putting people in jail is not super ethical nor is it useful at accomplishing much for society, for the individuals involved, and “punishment as deference” is disproved so much.
Not seeing the argument for this programs continued existence
That's just criminalizing being poor.
Every crime has a monetary value. Once someone has gone to prison and paid their debt to society, is there any good reason according to you that we shouldn't then throw them in another prison until they pay restitution?
Hell, maybe it's even a good thing that silcon valley could disrupt. Let's have companies skim a bit off the top and build smart prisons. They get to spend longer in debtor prison and others earn more money, it's a win/win.
Not to mention, you know, the actual debt that she owed.
What I'm talking about is that these sort of facilities shouldn't exist at all, full stop. Do you think that people that say, couldn't afford to pay their speeding ticket right away should be thrown into prison until they pay their debt?
It sounds to me like they’re actually trying to rehabilitate her. How much of her 7 year sentence has she actually served?
Worldwide the bar is not high.
It is a response providing perspective to questions like "but are we much better?"
The former is a major cause of the latter.
> You can’t credibly assert that the US incarceration rate is too high without knowing how it compares to the crime rate.
The incarceration rate is too high, in part, because it drives the crime rate.
It's also too high because it's historically largely a product of criminal justice policies adopted as a direct replacement for chattel slavery as a tool of racial suppression and which have continued to this day with that effect, having spread beyond the region which had chattel slavery to replace to the whole nation.
This is particularly true of penal slavery.
Not that US's incarceration rates are sane; to the contrary.
I definitely think that incarceration is actively harmful at fighting crime, because it puts a criminal in an environment of worse criminals, and provides room and board to just hang with them and learn their rules by heart (or be abused, or killed by them). Then the felon is released and has a lot of trouble finding work, so the new criminal knowledge burns to be used.
It’s also worth carefully re-reading the text of the 13th amendment. The giant slavery loophole is as-intended. The Union lost the Civil War while it got to declare “Mission Accomplished” because Abraham Lincoln sold-out civil society. Slavery continues as corporations profit by exploiting cheap labor paid on average under $1/hour. Systematic disenfranchisement is profitable.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Edit: reading the article, these people have failed to pay the fines associated with criminal convictions.
They are also held on bail when they cannot afford to pay, this is before found guilty of any crime.
This beggars belief. Can you provide sources or citations. Quick googling finds no references to this absolutely implausible scenario.
I'd argue any writer with a Pulitzer should hand it back until they have personally effected change in justice and prison reform. I'm angry that the system works this way, but I'm even angrier that people who do nothing but write for a living get to do so without making this a national priority.
Similar to our newly found compassion for people struggling with drug addiction, this won’t be solved until we stop viewing those affected as “others”.
It’s not true that’s it’s not been talked about, or even that it’s not covered by mainstream media. Many people are not paying attention and some mainstream media are actively against criminal justice reform.
It’s a political issue and a human rights issue, but politics is often reduced to sound bites with few taking the effort to really understand an issue and support those working to change it.
There are also unsurprising contradictions. The Trump administration signed legislation that addresses sentencing disparities in the war on drugs while simultaneously resuming federal death penalty executions even while its been widely reported that possibly more than 1 in 10 of those of death row are innocent.