Wed, 9 April 2014
GA Poised To Greatly Expand Predatory Private Probation Industry
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
A bill passed by both houses of the state legislature, landed on the desk of Georgia governor Nathan Deal last weekend. Georgia House Bill 837 is reportedly the result of about $500,000 in lobbying expenses by a single company, Sentinel Offender Services, the new law greatly expands the profitability and the impact of these predatory private probation companies upon the lives of poor families in Georgia.
Back in the 1990s, Georgia farmed out all its misdemeanor probation services to private companies. So when someone gets a DUI or similar offense, or misses a traffic court date and is sentenced to pay a $500 fine plus court costs, and cannot immediately produce the money, that person's case is handed over to a private company which immediately doubles or triples the amount extracted to cover its own costs and profits and interest. Private probation outfits can get the person sent to jail for late payment or non-payment, effectively a punitive tax upon the poor. This is why Georgia now leads the nation in the combined proportion of its residents in prisons, jails and under court and correctional probation and supervision of all kinds, an astounding one in thirteen adults.
Like all privatized government functions, whether its privatized parking, privatized voting machines, or privatized education, the private probation racket needs to keep the prying eyes of the public off itself. Accordingly the new legislation creates a dark zone, specifically shielding local governments and the privatizers from revealing how much money is actually remitted to local governments, how much they keep for themselves, how many cases they handle yearly, per case worker or at any one time, or how long they keep the cases.
HB 837 legalizes the up till now illegal, but common practice of charging probationers for their own electronic monitoring and other costs related to the handling of their cases, forcing the offender and her family to pay for their continuing house arrest. That's why the model is called “offender funded services”. Late payers can be jailed of course, and time spent in jail, under the new law does NOT count toward completion of the probation. Even now, persons are being locked up because they cannot afford the cost of land lines for the electronic monitoring gear.
It's not quite 19th century debtors' prison, a situation in which any creditor could demand you serve time for the crime of not being able to pay. So far the probation companies will be the only ones with this power. But it is a long step backward.
Georgia is one of those states which claims it's reducing the numbers of folks in its prisons and jails not because mass incarceration is unjust or discriminatory, but because it costs the states and counties too much. Funneling increasing numbers into punitive house arrest situations under the supervision of privatized middlemen who extract their profit directly from those on probation is a solution state authorities think they can live with.
Whether you live in Georgia or not, it's time to call Governor Nathan Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him whether he wants his state to continue to lead the nation in how many residents it has under correctional and court supervision. How many is too many? The present 1 in 13? Is he reaching for 1 in 12? For 1in 10? Politely suggest that he veto HB 837 and look instead for ways to curtail and shrink the predatory private probation industry instead of expanding it.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com or via this site's contact page.
Wed, 9 April 2014
Al Sharpton: King Rat
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Everything he does is an act of prostitution.”
Al Sharpton is a crook who is always for sale. This is not an opinion, but a fact that is known in great detail to scores of movement activists whose paths have intersected with this talented but totally amoral hustler over the past 40 years. I personally watched him sell out the campaign to elect Jersey City, New Jersey’s first Black mayor, whom Sharpton had pledged to support, in 2001. Sharpton’s price to sow confusion among Black voters was a mere $5,000.
This was only one of countless career transactions by a man whose self-proclaimed role models are the entertainer James Brown and the boxing racketeer Don King. Sharpton has sold out Black New York City many times over through his well-compensated service to billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. He sold out Black children and the institution of public education in a bizarre multi-city, salt-and-pepper tour with arch-racist Newt Gingrich on behalf of school charterization. The 2009 Sharpton-Gingrich traveling show, chaperoned by Education Secretary and Obama basketball buddy Arne Duncan, marked Sharpton’s rise to “made man” in the Obama organization – a pit bull primed to maul any political dissenters from the First Black President’s corporate agenda.
MSNBC, the corporate megaphone for the Democratic Party brand, provides Sharpton the kind of media platform that substitutes for independent Black leadership in the 21st century. Rev. Al is what he always wanted to be: a celebrity locked in the embrace of the rich and powerful.
“Top of the political garbage heap.”
Sharpton will reach what will probably be the pinnacle of his phenomenally corrupt career on Friday, in New York, when the annual convention of his National Action Network will host President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Sharpton’s traveling companion Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. If Sharpton were part of a genuine, independent Black political movement, the occasion would be an opportunity to confront the president on his global offensive against peace and world order, his militarization and destabilization of Africa, and his plans to step up the pace of the global economic Race to the Bottom through a new wave of NAFTA-like trade treaties. The convention might challenge the Attorney General to explain why Wall Street banks are too big to jail, but Americans can be imprisoned without charge or trial under a system in which the law, itself, is a secret. The National Action Network delegates would be allowed to ask why Black people in Detroit have been disenfranchised with the acquiescence of the Democrat in the White House, and how did it come to pass that President Obama became the greatest deporter of immigrants in U.S. history? The Agriculture Secretary could explain why the administration seemed positively happy to sign a bill that wipes out billions in food stamp benefits to the poor. But, none of this will happen at Sharpton’s convention, because everything he does is an act of prostitution.
In the presence of such monstrous corruption, recent confirmation that Sharpton was an informant for the FBI’s campaign against Italian mobsters in the early Eighties seems very tame, indeed – except that it also tends to confirm other allegations that he tried to rat on Black radicals during the same period. But today, Al Sharpton is at the top of the political garbage heap, the administration’s go-to guy in the sewers. He is King Rat.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to Black Agenda Report.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.