On Monday March 14th the Department of Justice handed criminals yet another free ride, this time right out of jail. In a memo distributed to state court administrators, DOJ officials “encouraged” courts to stop jailing offenders for failure to pay fines and costs – a practice it says discriminates against minorities.
The subject of fine and cost warrants first arose following the DOJ investigation involving the Ferguson Police Department. That investigation revealed numerous questionable practices, including what appeared to be a coordinated effort by the city, police department and court system to target low level offenders who would then face large fines – all of which went straight into the city coffers. If true, this practice was both horribly corrupt and illegal. But this is not how the majority of systems work and should not be the benchmark by which legitimate legal systems are judged.
In every jurisdiction, including the Federal system, there are low level crimes which could result in jail time but are usually handled by means of a monetary penalty – a fine. These fines are a necessary alternative to jail. Not only can the jails not handle the increase in population that imprisonment would mean, but the majority of these offenders do not deserve jail – just correction. But crimes, whether punished by fine or imprisonment, also require consequences. If you receive a fine and fail to pay that fine, the consequence is potential jail time.
“The consequences of the criminalization of poverty are not only harmful – they are far-reaching,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “They not only affect an individual’s ability to support their family, but also contribute to an erosion of our faith in government.”
The letter, signed by Vanita Gupta of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice goes on to state “Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.”
Let’s be clear; jail is not a punishment for being poor. It is a punishment for failure to pay a fine. It is the application of an originally available punishment when the lesser alternative did not work. Furthermore, every jurisdiction I know of already offers alternative such as timed payments or community service. If a defendant truly faces hardship, there are more than ample alternatives available.
However, serve a warrant today and it is likely the defendant will claim to be poor, unemployed and trying to feed a family – all of which the DOJ thinks should earn them a free ride. What the DOJ does not want to consider is the long history of failing to pay fines and costs while driving a brand new SUV with 20” rims, talking on the latest smartphone and kicking around in sneakers that cost more than my entire wardrobe.
Washington D.C. has become the Land of OZ and this is yet another curtain you are not supposed to look behind.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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