Guilty of being poor
By: Eric Ruder, WSW
The article below describes in succinct terms the way the
elites are keeping the poor in check - BY
IMPRISONING THEM; and most American Christians
- allied as they are with America's economic elites -
support what's happening. It's not without reason that
the Apostle James said:
"Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath
not God chosen the poor of this world rich in
faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised
to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor.
Do not rich men oppress you, and
draw you before the judgment seats [bankruptcy courts
and debtor's prisons]?" (James 2:5-6)
It's for this reason that Stephen Bradley
felt he could no longer serve as a police officer and
call himself a Christian. [Please see Stephen's article,
"The American Church Has Failed."]
THE JAILERS of the 19th
century--even in the pre-Civil War South--largely abandoned the practice of
imprisoning people for falling into debt as counterproductive and ultimately
barbaric. In the 1970s and '80s, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that
incarcerating people who can't pay fines because of poverty violates
the U.S. Constitution.
harass a homeless
man in Berkeley, CA
Apparently, though, some states
and county jails never got the memo. Welcome to the debtors' prisons of the
"Edwina Nowlin, a poor Michigan resident, was ordered
to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for
holding her 16-year-old son," the New York Times
wrote in an editorial.
"When she explained to the court that she could not
afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American
Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out
last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is
seeing more people being sent to jail because they cannot
make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric
The details of Nowlin's case are
even more alarming than the Times editorial suggests. Not only was Nowlin under orders to pay a fine stemming
from someone else's actions, but she had been laid off from work and lost her
home at the time she was ordered to "reimburse" the county for her
Despite her inability to pay, she
was held in contempt of court and ordered to serve a 30-day sentence.
On March 6, three days after she was incarcerated, she was released for
one day to work. She also picked up her paycheck, in the amount of $178.53.
This, she thought, could be used to pay the $104, and she would be released
But when she got back to the jail, the sheriff told her to sign her
check over to the county--to pay $120 for her own room and board, and $22 for a
drug test and booking fee.
Even more absurd, Nowlin
requested but was denied a court-appointed lawyer. So because she was too
poor to afford a lawyer and denied her constitutional right to have the court
provide one for her, she couldn't fight the contempt charge that stemmed from
her poverty. And her contempt conviction only added to her poverty, as the
fines and fees she was obligated to pay now multiplied.
"Like many people in these
desperate economic times, Ms. Nowlin was laid off from work, lost her home and
is destitute," said Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan
MICHIGAN ISN'T the only place
where you can be imprisoned for the crime of involuntary poverty. The same
Catch-22 ensnares poor defendants daily in courtrooms across the country.
"I need work to eat, and I need to eat to work: CATCH-22"
In 2006, the Southern Center for
Human Rights (SCHR) filed a suit on behalf of Ora Lee Hurley, who couldn't get
out of prison until she had enough money to pay a $705 fine. But she couldn't
pay the fine because she had to pay the Georgia Department of Corrections
$600 a month for room and board, and spend $76 a month on public
transportation, laundry and food.
She was released five days a week
to work at the K&K Soul Food restaurant, where she earned $6.50 an hour,
which netted her about $700 a month after taxes. Hurley was trapped in prison
for eight months beyond her initial 120-day sentence until the Southern Center
intervened. Over the course of her
incarceration, she earned about $7,000, but she never had enough at one time to
pay off her $705 fine.
"This is a situation where
if this woman was able to write a check for the amount of the fine, she would
be out of there," Sarah Geraghty, a SCHR lawyer, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution while
Hurley was still imprisoned. "And
because she can't, she's still in custody. It's as simple as that."
AWAITING FIRST POOR PRISONER
"Corrections Corporation of America, the largest operator of for-profit prisons in the US, has spent millions of dollars lobbying Washington for stricter laws that would ensure that their facilities are regularly close to total capacity. As these companies spend money to make new laws and expand on others that target non-violent criminals, the companies responsible generate mass income from operating the facilities."
Georgia also lets for-profit
probation companies prey on people too poor to pay their traffic
violations and court fees.
New offices for:
PROBATION SERVICES, INC.
"Providing professional, ethical,
and diligent service to the court and the community."
Global Positioning Satellite
all this from a company that wants to make money off these
"services" and therefore has every reason to make life more
miserable for those who have fallen into their clutches.
According to a 2008 SCHR report
entitled "Profiting from the poor":
"In courts around Georgia, people who are charged with
misdemeanors and cannot pay their fines that day in court
are placed on probation under the supervision of private,
for-profit companies until they pay off their fines. On probation,
they must pay these companies substantial monthly "supervision
fees" that may double or triple the amount that a person
of means would pay for the same offense.
"For example, a person of means may pay $200 for a traffic
ticket on the day of court and be done with it, while a person
too poor to pay that day is placed on probation and ends up
paying $500 or more for the same offense.
"The privatization of misdemeanor
probation has placed unprecedented law enforcement authority
in the hands of for-profit companies that act essentially
as collection agencies. These companies, focused on
profit rather than public safety or rehabilitation, are not
designed to supervise people or connect them to services and
jobs. Rather, they charge exorbitant monthly fees and
use the threat of imprisonment and a variety of bullying tactics
to squeeze money out of the men and women under their supervision.
"For too many poor people convicted of misdemeanors, our
state is not living up to the constitutional promise of equal
justice under law."
Welcome to America, home to 5% of the world's population & 25% of the world's prisoners
In Gulfport, Miss., the municipal
court started a "fine collection task force" to crack down on people
who owed fees for misdemeanors. According to the SCHR Web site:
"The task force trolled through predominantly African
American neighborhoods, rounding up people who had outstanding
court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City
of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding
at which no defense attorney was present or even offered.
"Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting
just seconds. While the city collected money, it also packed
the jail with hundreds of people who couldn't pay, including
people who were sick, physically disabled and/or limited by
The disregard of the justice
system for the rights of poor people to equal protection and due process is
cause for outrage. But it shouldn't come as a surprise in an era when the
government spends billions bailing out banks while letting foreclosures and
unemployment ruin the lives of working people.
IN ADDITION, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD THE NEW ANTIPAS PAPERS,
PRINT THEM OUT YOURSELF, AND STUDY THEM CAREFULLY; SHARE THEM
WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
FINALLY, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT OUT THE FLYER
WE SENT TO YOU RECENTLY.
Then make copies and take these copies out to the campuses
where you live; pass them out; OR if that seems
too "daring" for you right now, post them on telephone
poles, the sides of buildings, on campus bulletin boards; post
them in union halls, in the neighborhoods of the poor and downtrodden,
near employment offices, wherever you can.
Once again, we URGE you to read (or
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insofar as their loyalty to the United States is concerned
- a loyalty that has made them partners in the BLOODY
trail the American military has left in its TERROR-RIDDEN
rampage throughout the world, as well as making them partners
in the abject poverty that American corporations have
imposed on the peoples and nations the American military
machine has ravaged - A BLOODY, TERROR-RIDDEN RAMPAGE
THAT HAS TO A LARGE DEGREE BEEN CARRIED OUT IN THE NAME
OF THE "PRINCE OF PEACE." [Please see our articles,
"The Third World
as a Model for the New World Order," Inside
the American New World Order System" and "The
American Empire: The Corporate / Pentagon / CIA / Missionary
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