fbpx
Connect with us

Law

Losing driver’s license to debt — 43 states allow suspensions due to unpaid court debt

NASHVILLE PRIDE — Today, personal vehicles transport parents to work, take multiple family generations to school, access medical and/or business services, and more. With a car and a driver’s license, consumers gain mobility to go about their daily lives in all of its multiple dimensions. But what happens when that driver’s license is revoked or suspended?

Published

on

Photo by: Photos By Phab | Nappy.co

By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) — Today, personal vehicles transport parents to work, take multiple family generations to school, access medical and/or business services, and more. With a car and a driver’s license, consumers gain mobility to go about their daily lives in all of its multiple dimensions.

But what happens when that driver’s license is revoked or suspended?

In 43 states and the District of Columbia, driver’s licenses can be suspended because of unpaid court debt. In most locales, once a driver’s license is suspended, it can retain that designation indefinitely. Only four states currently require an ‘ability-to-repay’ or a ‘willfulness’ determination. Otherwise, nonpayment of driver-related charges can lead to the loss of a driver’s license for years.

That leaves consumers in 39 other states in a financial quagmire. Whether a license is suspended or revoked, the likelihood is that the driver will incur a range of fees that many consumers find unaffordable. Without a driver’s license to reliably get to a job and its earnings the ability to repay assessed fees becomes nearly impossible.

The fees and fines that lead to the revocation of drivers’ licenses strikes the hardest among consumers of color. In 2017, according to the Federal Reserve, median family incomes by race and ethnicity reveal $215,000 for Whites, $35,000 for Latino families, and only $14,400 for Black families. Further that same year the Fed found that nearly one in five Black families have zero or negative net worth: twice the rate of White families.

According to the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, nearly a million people with a suspended license (one in six) could not pay their fines. If caught driving on a suspended Virginia license, consumers can be incarcerated for up to a year and also incur a $2,500 fine. Those who are either late or short in paying traffic fines can have their driver’s license suspended. The Commonwealth’s courts and judges can take this action through the assistance of computers—not people, leaving many consumers unaware.

The state of Illinois offers another insightful example:
Nearly 50,000 Illinois licenses are suspended each year because drivers cannot pay their tickets, fines, or fees—including non-moving violations that have nothing to do with driving.

In Cook County, home to Chicago, people arrested for driving on a suspended license spend an average of 14 days incarcerated at a cost to taxpayers of $5.5 million annually.

Fortunately, a growing number of organizations and consumer advocates are now dedicating resources to address this largely unreported trend. These advocates include: National Consumer Law Center’s (NCLC) Racial Justice & Economic Opportunity Project, Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, the North Carolina Justice Center, California’s Back on the Road Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). These advocates oppose these punitive policies and practices, particularly for the financial hardships imposed on the poor.

In North Carolina, the Second Chance Alliance has developed a change strategy that is largely based on the real-life experiences of people impacted by these injustices. Further, their strategy combines reforms directed to local courts as well as legislative initiatives. On 2017, according to the Alliance, over 1.1 million North Carolinians had their driver’s licenses suspended indefinitely for failure to either appear in court or pay fines.

“Excessive fees and fines pose a fundamental challenge to a fair and effective criminal justice system,” said Larry Schwartztol, executive director of Harvard Law’s Criminal Justice Policy Program. “At their worst, these practices can lead to a two-tiered system of criminal justice, exposing indigent defendants to especially harsh outcomes.”

In A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as a Punishment for the Poor, a book written by Dr. Alexes Harris, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. Further, court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, restitution or other court-imposed costs, bring more difficulty to those seeking to reenter society.

“Because they cannot be held fully accountable for their offending when they are unable to pay, the poor experience a permanent punishment,” wrote Dr. Harris in the book’s preface. “Because they cannot be held fully accountable for their offending when they are unable to pay, the poor experience a permanent punishment. Nevertheless, non-elected court bureaucrats enforce this system and assess debtors’ remorse for their crimes based on their own ideas about personal responsibility, meritocracy, and accountability.”

This trend of ‘punishing the poor’ gained additional momentum in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. With plummeting tax collections, many cities, counties and states sought ‘revenue enhancements’ to fund governments. The unfortunate result is that the same communities that were targeted for millions of unsustainable mortgages that led to foreclosures are now being financially hit again.

“Black and Brown communities already unjustly bear the disproportionate burden of inequities in our criminal justice system,” said Lucia Mattox, CRL’s Western States’ Policy and Outreach Associate. “The suspension of drivers’ licenses follows the same trend lines.

“States and local governments have a critical role to play in reversing these trends and policies that unfairly trap people in debt cycles. Any entrenchment of racial inequalities denies freedom.”

(Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications deputy director. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.)

This article originally appeared in the Nashville Pride

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Community

S.B. Legal Aid Offers Free Expungement

PRECINCT REPORTER GROUP NEWS — It should come as no surprise that the last place most formerly incarcerated want to be is at another courthouse standing before another judge. That’s probably one reason why thousands that could have gotten expunged haven’t taken advantage of the process locally since 2014 when the expungement law opened up. Since then, Michelle Dodd has handled over 300 cases from start to finish. She takes care of the entire process, and all clients need to do is show up at the door of the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino.

Published

on

Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino (Photo by: precinctreporter.com)

By Dianne Anderson

It should come as no surprise that the last place most formerly incarcerated want to be is at another courthouse standing before another judge.

That’s probably one reason why thousands that could have gotten expunged haven’t taken advantage of the process locally since 2014 when the expungement law opened up.

Since then, Michelle Dodd has handled over 300 cases from start to finish. She takes care of the entire process, and all clients need to do is show up at the door of the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino.

And, it’s free.

“They’re going to send you right to me. I’m going to do the paperwork, you’ll come in and sign it. You don’t ever have to see the judge or the court clerk,” said Dodd, case management director at the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino.

Documents are sent by mail so the client doesn’t have to file. The judge hears it within 30 to 45 days when the order is denied, or approved, via the mail.

With her 90% success rate, mostly it’s approved.

Over the past few years, she has seen several clients come in that need multiple expungements. One client originally had three charges, but had snowballed into 28 parole layered charges.  It was a case of violation on top of violation, on top of violation.

“The reality is that they were young. Now they’re older, and all of these are from their past. They were silly charges,” she said.

Youth get tied up in the system from an early age, and probably never learned how, or had an opportunity to clean up their past. Now that they’re older, they have a family to support and they’re trying to get a job.

Despite their checkered backgrounds, some of her clients have been able to land decent work, but she recommends not waiting until the last minute to set the record straight.

One client was up for a job at DMV, but he lost his window of opportunity because his expungement was not even close to being ready. He had to produce proof, but he didn’t realize that he needed an expungement until they notified him.

“They sent him a letter of denial that he had a charge from 23 years ago, and he needed to get it fixed,” she said. “But they only gave him ten days to clear that up before he could reapply.”

It cost him the potential job.

Others have also come in because they are trying to assist their aging parents. Decades later, they can’t pass the background check without an expungement that they didn’t realize they needed.

“They’re thinking I did two days in jail, and got 36 months of probation,” she said. “Now, it’s 20 years later and they can’t get the job because of that charge.”

Dodd, who has worked with Legal Aid nearly 24 years, said the expungement law passed in 2014, but the forms changed in 2017 to re-sentencing language that now involves several different components, including immigration.

Until the laws change, the biggest barrier even with expungement is that the formerly incarcerated still must check the box that they’ve been arrested.

“Once it’s expunged, it says dismissed instead of what the sentence was,” she said. “To get it off the record requires an entirely different motion, and character letters from people [without a] guarantee that’s going through either.”

However, there may be some encouraging changes on the horizon for low-level offenders that have been locked out of jobs, housing or education because of their arrest record.

AB 1076 wants to seal the conviction database of eight million records from public view, but it will be open for certain law enforcement agencies. To pass, it needs to clear both Democratically-controlled houses before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto in September. If passed, the law would take effect in January, 2021.

“That’s the change we need,” Dodd said.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), author of AB 1076, states on his website that the process of automating arrest and conviction relief at the California Department of Justice is the first of its kind.

“Everybody deserves a second chance. We must open doors for those facing housing and employment barriers and use available technology to clear arrest and criminal records for individuals already eligible for relief. There is a great cost to our economy and society when we shut out job-seeking workers looking for a better future,” Ting stated.

According to www.timedone.org, a campaign of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, one-fifth of the 70 million Americans convicted of a crime still struggle with barriers to access jobs, housing, education long after they have served their time.

“The negative impacts of a felony conviction disproportionately impact people of color, people living in urban areas, people without a college degree, and people who are low income. The largest disparities relate to finding a job or housing,” Californians for Safety and Justice reports. “ People of color are 25% more likely than white people to report difficulty finding a job and 61% more likely to report difficulty finding housing.”

For more information on clinic times and document preparation, see http://legalaidofsb.org/

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

Published

on

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter is dragged from the courtroom following her sentencing for unlawful interest in a public contact, after she illegally helped her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter appeared overcome with emotion as she was literally dragged from a Cincinnati courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday, July 22, after she was sentenced to six months in jail for charges stemming from a controversial conviction in 2014.

A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract after she was accused of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

With a courtroom packed with supporters — and many more who stood outside of the proceedings — Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dispensed Hunter’s punishment.

Prior to sentencing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote a letter asking the court to consider having Hunter undergo psychiatric evaluation based on questions he has about what he calls Hunter’s “mental condition,” according to reporting from WLWT5.

Hunter’s attorney David Singleton disagreed with the request, adding that he “couldn’t believe” Deters would ask the court to have Hunter undergo evaluation and that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the case.

With all of the support Hunter has received based on both real and perceived biases during the initial trial and appeals process, Mayor John Cranley wrote a letter to Dinkelacker asking him not to place Hunter in prison, saying that she has suffered as a result of her conviction and doesn’t appear to pose any risks to others.

Postcards were sent to Dinkelacker’s house asking for leniency in his sentencing. He read some of the postcards during the hearing.

“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge,” Hunter said.

At least one of Hunter’s supporters was arrested at the courthouse after trying to intervene when deputies attempted to take Hunter into custody.

Others shouted, “No Justice, No Peace,” and accused the court of racism.

In June, former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney had expressed to NNPA Newswire that Hunter’s incarceration was “going to be a problem” and the city would “explode. I’m telling you, black people [in Cincinnati] are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly,” Kearney said. “The city is on edge.”

Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.

The jury that rendered the guilty verdict in her trial was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.

For example, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.

Court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors that arrived at the guilty verdict, which required a unanimous decision from the jury.

Hunter said that the only three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately yielded to pressure from other jurors. The judge refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.

In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each is in agreement with the verdict.

“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter told NNPA Newswire in June.

“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.

At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and “if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.

Hunter also wanted her supporters to know that she is not suicidal.

“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs … I have no intention of harming myself,” she said.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

Driving While Black: Police Continue to Profile, Stop and Search African American Drivers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” said American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei. “In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

Published

on

The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Two new recently published reports show that racial profiling – particularly “Driving While Black” – remains a crisis in America.

A recent report issued by Missouri’s attorney general Eric Schmitt revealed that black drivers across that state are 91 percent more likely than white motorists to get pulled over by police. What’s more, the profiling usually takes place in the motorists’ own community, according to the attorney general’s report.

The Missouri report arrives on the heels of one out of Kentucky where a study found that black motorists are searched at a rate of three-times more than whites in Louisville.

African Americans account for approximately 20 percent of Louisville’s driving age population, but they still accounted for 33 percent of police stops and 57 percent of the nearly 9,000 searches conducted on motorists, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, which conducted the study.

Their findings were highlighted in a tweet by The Thurgood Marshall Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Louisville Courier Journal said it reviewed “130,999 traffic stops in Louisville from 2016 to 2018 and found that an overwhelming number of African American drivers were profiled and pulled over by police.”

The newspaper also found that black motorists were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time.

“Aside from the alarming and devastating findings, we have always known that racial profiling is all too prevalent throughout law enforcement and our society as a whole,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told NNPA Newswire.

“What we need is to implement proper training for law enforcement officers on how to more efficiently carry out essential policing without threatening the lives of people of color,” Johnson said.

Racial profiling is an insidious practice and serious problem in America that can lead to deadly consequences, Johnson added.

“Our faith in our criminal justice system will continuously be challenged if we are constantly targeted by discriminatory practices just by doing simple tasks – walking down the street, driving down an interstate, or going through an airport without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin. Living as a person of color should never be crime,” he said.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei told NNPA Newswire that racial disparities in the new data are similar to what courts have relied on around the country to find unconstitutional racial profiling in traffic stops.

“Disparities of this kind suggest that officers are using race not only in deciding who to pull over, but who to single out for searches,” Takei said.

“What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” he said.

Takei continued:

“In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

“This unjustly interferes with Black people trying to live their everyday lives – subjecting them to humiliating, intrusive stops and searches in circumstances where white people would not be stopped or searched.

“Additionally, such racialized policing practices harm law enforcement by undermining the legitimacy of the police and damaging police relationships with the communities they are supposed to be serving.”

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that Police Chief Steve Conrad spoke before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee and acknowledged that the department has disproportionately stopped black drivers.

The newspaper reported that Conrad reasoned that African Americans are disproportionately represented in all aspects of the criminal justice system, including in arrests and incarceration.

“This is not all surprising based on my over 35 years of practice defending drug cases after traffic stops,” Randall Levine, a Kalamazoo, Michigan attorney told NNPA Newswire.

“I would say that DWB – Driving While Black – is still as prevalent today as it was in 1980,” Levine said, before opining what could occur to affect change. “Diversity, sensitivity training and some type of real enforcement for violations might help,” he said.

Continue Reading

Law

Boudin Runs for District Attorney

OAKLAND POST — Running for San Francisco District Attorney to challenge the system of mass incar­ceration, SF Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin has gained the backing of civil rights attorney Pamela Price and other East Bay progres­sives.

Published

on

East Bay Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price introduces Chesa Boudin, who is running for district attorney of San Francisco, at a fundraiser in Oakland June 23. Photo by Ken Epstein.
By Ken Epstien

Running for San Francisco District Attorney to challenge the system of mass incar­ceration, SF Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin has gained the backing of civil rights attorney Pamela Price and other East Bay progres­sives.

“The system is broken,” Boudin said, speaking at a fun­draiser in Oakland on Sunday, June 23. ” If we can’t do bet­ter in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, where can we do better?”

Hosting the fundraiser were Price; civil rights icon Howard Moore Jr; Fania Davis, a lead­ing national voice on restor­ative justice; Allyssa Victory, Shirley Golub, Royl Roberts and Sheryl Walton. Boudin’s San Francisco endorsements include former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Democratic Party Chair David Cam­pos and Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Aaron Peskin and San­dra Fewer.

Boudin has served as Depu­ty Public Defender since 2015, handling over 300 felony cas­es. He is running against Suzy Loftus, Nancy Tung, and Leif Dautch – who hope to suc­ceed eight-year incumbent DA George Gascón, who is not running for reelection. The election takes place on Nov. 5.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Boudin earned a mas­ters’ degree in public policy and is a Rhodes Scholar. His campaign emphasizes that he knows “firsthand the de­structive impacts of mass in­carceration.” He was only 14 months old when his parents were incarcerated for driving the getaway car “in a robbery that tragically took the lives of three men.” His mother served 22 years, and his father may never get out.

Introducing Boudin at the fundraiser, Price said, “When I heard about this young man, I did my research. I was blown away immediately. We have a real warrior among us. We have someone who has over­come obstacles, whose life, profession and whose spirit epitomizes what we need in our district attorney.”

“We know that our criminal justice system has been com­pletely corrupted by injustice and racism,” she continued. “(The system) is upheld and sustained by people who prac­tice it and are committed to its perpetuation… Chesa is in so many ways our greatest hope.”

In his remarks, Boudin called for an end to criminal justice practices that are insti­tutionalized but have clearly failed.

“We know that we have 25 percent of the world’s prison population in the U.S., and 2.2 million people are behind bars on any single day,” he said.

“We’re promised equal jus­tice under the law, but instead we have discriminatory money bail,” he said. “We believe in treating the mentally ill and the drug addicted, but instead this system puts them in solitary confinement.”

Boudin’s program includes creation of a “Wrongful Con­viction Unit,” would decide whether to reopen the investi­gation of certain cases, elimi­nating cash bail, effectively prosecuting police misconduct and refocusing resources to work on serious and violent felonies.

“(Change) has to start with people who understand how profoundly broken the system is, not just because they read it in a book but because they ex­perienced it,” he said.

For more information about Chesa Boudin’s campaign, go to www.chesaboudin.com/

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

Philadelphia Fires 13 Officers for Racist Facebook Posts

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects. “I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

Published

on

Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Police officers in Philadelphia and St. Louis are paying a heavy price for their acts of racism.

Weeks after a scathing analysis by the nonprofit Plain View Project, the two departments have responded.

In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

Ross said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions.

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she added 22 officers to her “exclusion list” of authorities banned from bringing cases to her office after the Facebook posts were made public.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, Gardner said seven of those 22 were “permanently banned.”

Hayden and Gardner have said they are still investigating the Facebook posts.

In June, the Plain View Project determined that at least 328 active-duty police officers in various cities, including Philadelphia and St. Louis, posted content that championed violence against Muslims, immigrants and African Americans.

In the posts, officers from rookies to the highest of rank, said the viewed African Americans as “dogs,” and some wrote that they would arrive at work believing that, “it’s a good day for a chokehold.”

Still, others posted their beliefs that women in hijabs were tantamount to “trash bags.”

Plain View project officials counted more than 3,000 offensive posts from departments across the country, including Dallas, Tex.; Denison, Tex.; Lake County, Fla.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Louis, Mo.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and York, Penn.

“We found a very high and concerning number of posts that appear to endorse, celebrate or glorify violence and vigilantism,” said Philadelphia-based attorney Emily Baker-White, who heads the Plain View Project.

“We included posts that we thought could affect public trust and policing,” she said.

“We also included posts that seemed to emit some sort of bias against a group of people – whether if that’s a minority faith, a minority race, ethnicity, immigration status, whatever it is. We saw a number of posts that appeared to denigrate those groups of people,” Baker-White said.

Pennsylvania State. Rep. Chris Rabb said the move by the Philadelphia Police Department to fire the officers is the right thing to do.

“We rely on police officers to protect us, all of us, and to serve as an example of appropriate behavior in our community,” said Rabb, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia area.

“Unethical, racist, inappropriate behavior or comments by police officers, like that exhibited by these officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, undermines the public’s trust in an institution that is supposed to serve us all,” Rabb said.

Further, Rabb said he agreed with sending the message that such behavior will not be tolerated in any police department.

“But it’s not enough if those police officers are able to find employment in another community that’s unsuspecting of their past behavior,” said Rabb, who has introduced legislation that would ensure that officers like those being terminated cannot simply be moved to another department without leadership and the community being aware of their past behavior.

He said his bill would prevent a department from hiring a police officer who separated from their last job after a pattern of allegations, complaints or charges for inappropriate behavior.

It would also ensure that the hiring departments are fully informed about whom they are hiring.

“This legislation would empower police chiefs and municipalities to make fully informed decisions about the officers who serve their communities,” Rabb said.

“Accountability and transparency, which this legislation would promote, are assets in agencies and departments that strive for integrity.”

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said the organization was “disappointed” in the decision to fire the officers in part because they were deprived of due process.

“The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism,” McNesby said.

None of the terminated officers were named, but Philadelphia authorities confirmed that the highest-ranking officer fired is a sergeant.

“We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better,” Kenney said.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

If You’re Poor in America, Debtor’s Prison is Real

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, according to a 2018 report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Published

on

Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Despite a centuries-old Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the practice, debtor’s prison remains very much alive in America, experts told NNPA Newswire. Being poor is challenging enough, but some states, like Missouri, have continued to punish those of lesser means.

A federal class-action suit claims thousands of those living in Missouri were jailed because they couldn’t pay off fines – essentially, a debtor’s prison and conundrum for the poor.

Pro Publica reported that four years after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs are still waiting, and wondering if the deck is stacked against them.

The report details the plight of Tonya DeBerry, who, in January 2014, was driving through an unincorporated area of St. Louis County, Missouri, when a police officer pulled her over for having expired license plates.

“After discovering that DeBerry, 51, had several outstanding traffic tickets from three jurisdictions, the officer handcuffed her and took her to jail,” according to Pro Publica.

“To be released, she was told, she would have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines she owed the county, according to her account in a federal lawsuit. However, even after her family came up with the money, DeBerry wasn’t released from custody.

Because DeBerry still owed fines and fees to the cities in Ferguson and Jennings, she remained jailed and her attorney likened it to “being held for ransom.”

“The crisis that is going on in Missouri is taking place all around the country. It is a rising issue amongst people who cannot afford to pay court fees and, or fines,” said Attorney Dameka L. Davis of the Davis Legal Center in Hollywood, Fla.

“I believe the more appropriate action is to implement programs and services that are free or offer a person to do community service in lieu of paying fines or fees,” Davis said.

“Our system is perpetuating a money-based system, which in turn systematically affects minorities and people of color,” she said.

Matt C. Pinsker, an adjunct professor of Homeland Security and Criminal Justice in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the problem runs deeper than in Missouri.

“The American people would be horrified if they knew of just how many laws still exist which send poor people to prison over their inability to pay fines, court costs, and related expenses,” Pinsker said.

“It is a tragedy and absurdity that we will essentially have debtors’ prisons here in the United States of America,” he said.

In DeBerry’s case, Pro Publica reported that after the Michael Brown killing, “the city slowly stopped jailing people for not being able to pay fines as the news media showed the victims were primarily black and the Justice Department made clear that what Ferguson had been doing was wrong.”

Still, the lawsuit remains unresolved with the city seeking dismissal.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union detailed more than 1,000 cases in 26 states in which judges, acting on the request of a collection company, issued warrants for people they claimed owed money for “ordinary debts, such as student loans, medical expenses, unpaid rent and utility bills.”

The ACLU said it’s a system that breeds coercion and abuse.

The report concluded that, “with little government oversight, debt collectors, backed by arrest warrants and wielding bounced check demand letters, can frighten people into paying money that may not even be owed.”

Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said.

As an example, one 75-year-old woman subsisting on $800 monthly Social Security checks, went without her medications in order to pay the fees she believed were required to avoid jail time for bouncing a check.

And as one lawyer in Texas, who has sought arrests of student loan borrowers who are in arrears, said, “It’s easier to settle when the debtor is under arrest,” the report’s authors found.

The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, the report said.

Many were struggling to recover after the loss of a job, mounting medical bills, the death of a family member, a divorce, or an illness.

“They included retirees or people with disabilities who are unable to work. Some were subsisting solely on Social Security, unemployment insurance, disability benefits, or veterans’ benefits – income that is legally protected from outstanding debt judgments,” the report’s authors wrote.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Latest News

%d bloggers like this: