What it means to privatize the justice system

Great article about the consequences of turning over parts of the criminal justice system to private, for-profit companies. How do the companies make money? By charging offenders on probation for their own monitoring, and by racking up fines and interest charges on the cost of traffic tickets and small court fines. There are already many well-documented Kafkaesque nightmares emerging from this turning over of a basic function of governance.

Collection companies and the services they offer appeal to politicians and public officials for a number of reasons: they cut government costs, reducing the need to raise taxes; they shift the burden onto offenders, who have little political influence, in part because many of them have lost the right to vote; and it pleases taxpayers who believe that the enforcement of punishment — however obtained — is a crucial dimension to the administration of justice.

As N.P.R. reported in May, services that “were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,” are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D.N.A. sampling. This can go to extraordinary lengths: in Washington state, N.P.R. found, offenders even “get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.”

Read: The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism – NYTimes.com.