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We have our problems, but thankfully this isn’t one of them

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* I put this post together during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, but never published it. Not sure why. But as you’ll soon see, it’s relevant to today’s revelation about Bruce Rauner.

* I’ve known several people, all poor, who faced the constant threat of arrest over things like a small fine not being paid, or a hospital collects on a debt and a court date is missed and they can’t afford to pony up

In Ferguson, court fees and fines are the second largest source of funds for the city; $2.6 million was collected in 2013 alone. That’s become a key source of tension. There is a perception in the area, Harvey says, that the black population is targeted to pay those fines. Eighty-six percent of the traffic stops, for example, happen to black residents — even though the city is 67 percent black.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they’re being pulled over because they’re black,” Harvey says. “They’re being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.” […]

“This becomes a major issue: if you can’t pay your fines, you stop going to court. And then a warrant goes out for their arrest, and if they don’t have the fine money they’ll sit in jail until the next court date. We’re talking about traffic tickets here, really the lowest level offense.”

* People all over the country get caught up in this ridiculous cycle. And if they do wind up arrested and sit in jail, they can lose their jobs and their kids. From the New Yorker

(A)cross much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

* Thankfully, Illinois took a stand against this craziness two years ago. From a May 30, 2012 press release

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today applauded state lawmakers for supporting the Debtors’ Rights Act of 2012, a measure that would protect poor people from being jailed over unpaid debts.

Small traffic-related fines, hospital bills and the like were covered under that legislation. It was a very good bill that helped Illinois move away from criminalizing poverty. Other states, however, are not so enlightened.

* Now, on to Bruce Rauner. It’s not known whether Rauner had anything to do with plans to purchase this company, which was finalized just two months after he retired from GTCR, so it’s once again difficult to pin anything on him. From the Chicago Reader

Though Rauner retired from GTCR in 2012, he’s still an investor in it. Not long after he left the firm, it acquired a company called Correctional Healthcare Companies, which provides medical and mental care, including “behavioral programming,” for prisons and jails that want to save money by outsourcing such services.

Illinois is one of the states that’s contracted with CHC. As the Better Government Association has reported, the mental care it’s provided at juvenile detention facilities has been the subject of a lawsuit—though the suit was filed against the Quinn administration. Records show that the state has paid CHC about $21 million since 2012.

But CHC owns another company that does far more controversial work. Judicial Correction Services doesn’t operate in Illinois, but in a number of states in the south it’s a leading provider of what’s called private or offender-funded probation. Simply put, the company contracts with local courts to oversee people on probation for misdemeanor offenses. The arrangement is attractive to budget-cutting officials because there are no direct costs for taxpayers: the offenders cover expenses by paying monthly fees to be supervised.

The thing is, these aren’t hardened criminals—they’re people snared in the court system for committing low-level offenses. And the problem with asking them to pay is that many of them are on probation because they didn’t have the money to pay the fines for their misdemeanors in the first place. The ACLU calls the practice “court-sanctioned extortion.”

* From that BGA story

In Illinois, the company has drawn criticism in connection with a federal lawsuit filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois against the state Department of Juvenile Justice, accusing the state agency of inadequately treating detainees with mental health conditions. […]

But Dr. Louis Kraus, a court-appointed expert in the ACLU case, says he found that Correctional Healthcare “is not meeting the needs of the kids.” Kraus, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, says he found some Correctional Healthcare employees lacked the training and certification needed to treat juveniles with serious mental health and psychiatric problems. […]

An unrelated court case, which was settled in November 2012 for undisclosed terms, accused Correctional Healthcare of being “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of an unnamed Illinois youth prisoner. That lawsuit was filed in May 2011 in federal court in Chicago against Correctional Healthcare, an affiliate of the company and a Correctional Healthcare physician the lawsuit said didn’t send the detainee to a hospital until more than 14 hours after the boy first complained of severe testicular pain. As a result, one of the boy’s testicles had to be surgically removed, according to the suit.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - walker - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    The slow, steady slide back to 18th century England.

    All in the name of “law and order” and “profits make it right.”

    Consistent with our growing and defending a new aristocracy.

  2. - G'Kar - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    No real comment other than the fact reading this article makes me sad and angry at the same time. I thought, as a nation, we would be better than this.

  3. - truthteller - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    Is there nothing Rauner wouldn’t do for a buck? Does he have not a shred of decency?

  4. - NewWestSuburbanGOP'er - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:20 am:

  5. - William j Kelly - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    Does the phrase ‘you couldn’t make this stuff up’ even come close? Maybe the phrase ‘I thought I had seen it all, now this.’ Or how’s about a totally new phrase I just invented ‘run away from rauner like he is radioactive!’

  6. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:34 am:

    Bruce Rauner has his snout in the taxpayer trough when it comes to prisons too?

    He really is Matthew Lesko and that “Free Money” guidebook as venture capitalist.

  7. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    This moderate and undecided voter is considering voting for Pat Quinn. Bruce Rauner appears far too Machiavellian for state governance. One cannot consistently operate under a “profit > people” strategy. Ugh.

  8. - vinron - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    I’m glad you posted on this topic. The Arch City Defenders white paper cited in the article is eye opening, as is an in-depth WaPost article. I’m glad that IL doesn’t have the massive amounts of municipal courts that the St. Louis area has, where large a percentage of municipal funding comes from fines. Where the people who work in the system are pushed to collect fines no matter what, or lose their jobs. Where proceedings are held in gyms, at weird hours, and kids weren’t allowed to attend.

  9. - Boone's is Back - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    Man that guy has his hands in a lot of honeypots. The next thing you know we’ll find out that he owned a private company that did the contract killing for animal shelters. Bill Brady all over again!!!

  10. - James formerly from Wrigley - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    State of Illinois paid this CHC company $21,000,000.00 since 2012. Rauner’s company bought CHC 2 months before he retired. Why is the story then about Rauner and not Rauner and Quinn? Rauner shouldn’t be profiting from this, but Quinn shouldn’t be funding it.

  11. - Empty Suit - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    So the ACLU is suing the Dept of Juvenile Justice for contracting with a company that Rauner is an investor in (Since they can’t prove he was in on the purchase)?
    Based on this logic Quinn actually approved the contract and is the one being sued, isn’t he? So isn’t it his fault “healthcare is not meeting the needs of children”.

  12. - Anonymous - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    Man, being a government profiteer is one thing, but debtors prisons? Is he suffering from psychopathy?

  13. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    The New York Times recently had a detailed report concerning the manner in which abuse of this process is rapidly becoming a modern day version of medieval “debtor’s prison”.

  14. - Anonymous - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    “…which abuse of this process is rapidly becoming a profit center for vulture capitalists like Bruce Rauner.”

    Fixed that for you.

  15. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    @Empty Suit

    Follows the ongoing logic of Bruce Rauner… Somebody else let me do it, so it’s not my fault.

  16. - Ghost - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    Many moons ago their was a judge in Champaign who used to sentence offenders on speeding and other misdemeanor tickets who did not have money to pay,to community service instead of a monetary fine.

    it seems like there should be a statute which allows any court to consider the ability to pay, and to sentence people to community service in lieu of fines. They should also consider, where appropriate, giving credit for time spent in second or third jobs, attending school etc. to meet the requirements.

    I recall the police syaing you have higher pull over rates because they use pull overs in high crime areas. The thoery is you ad more police and pull over more vehicles because it allows you to check for and try to prevent other criminal activity. I would suggest if thats why certain communities have higher police stops, they go to a policy of issuing warning tickets. It seems a catch 22 if having a higher police presence to reduce crime instead places a burden on people who are not engaged in the type of crim you are seeking to reduce.

    No need for a higher police presence to reduce crime to effectively make a Disctrict 11.

  17. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    How bad is Judicial Correction Services? Imagine the horror and scale of the parking meter deal - except instead of cars, humans.

    Apparently Rauner’s business plan is as simple as playing a game of limbo with himself.

  18. - MrJM - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 1:55 pm:

    “We have our problems, but thankfully this isn’t one of them”


    – MrJM

  19. - GANDY DANCER - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    You can’t legitimately claim that 67% of any minority group should only receive 67% of the traffic tickets. An idependent study in New Jersey showed that 11% of a minority group was doing doing 25% of the speeding, and receiving 23% of the tickets. The same percentages showed true for every different group that was photographed speeding. So, stop with the assumption that there is automatically racism involved just by looking at percentages of the population in a given geographic area and a given event. It’s false, lazy analysis, and misleading. By the way, Lisa Madigan runs a number of her domestic violence programs from locally generated ticket revenue, as does the any number of other socially oriented programs. Traffic fines and fees have become a favorite revenue generating device for the state legislature.

  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    ===An idependent study in New Jersey showed that 11% of a minority group was doing doing 25% of the speeding, and receiving 23% of the tickets===

    That is one goofy stat.

  21. - sal-says - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 4:01 pm:

    Seems over-simplified, but here it is:

    Is ‘big bidness’ typically more concerned with profits or helping mankind?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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