The return of the Debtors’ Prison
Sociologists have long talked about the cost of being poor. It’s counter-intuitive on the surface, but it’s as easy to see as the cost of doing laundry in your own machine vs. the cost of going to a Laundromat, both in time and money. If you are well off enough to own a car, it dramatically improves your ability to find work to be well off, and God help you if you get caught in the payday loan trap. When private citizens and corporations make money by providing capitol to those who do not own their own, that’s capitalism. Whether it is right or wrong, it is the system we work under. When it is the government that is preying on the poor, it is just wrong.
The New York Times has an excellent article that details how, in the name of lower taxes, we are giving private corporations license to monitor criminals on probation. Since these corporations don’t charge tax-payers, they do so by charging people out on parole. Constitutionally mandated services that used to be free, now come with a charge. The cost of monitoring parolees, once borne by the State, have been shifted by politicians to a group of people who, conveniently, cannot vote.
It’s not just the convicted who are falling victim to this system. In some jurisdictions, we are charging presumably innocent people for the right to a jury trial. In others, a chronically underfunded public defender system is leaving those who cannot afford private counsel without their constitutionally “guaranteed” right to council, all in the name of saving the country money.
Our national debt to asset ratio is around 7.5%. We are not in the sort of dire financial straits that can forgive forgoing our basic civil liberties.
A tip of the hat to The Goat Rope for the NYT article that got me thinking.