Criminal hearings are supposed to be free and public, but in Dallas, Texas — where thousands of individuals remain locked up because they cannot afford bail — bail hearings are held in secrecy behind closed doors.
Complaints from Equal Justice Under Law have prompted investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into racial discrimination in bail systems across the country. This month, EJUL formally requested that OJP address extreme pretrial racial disparities in Prince George’s County.
"That contract has spiraled out of control into a scheme of extortion," Telfeyan said. "What's happening is people are being assigned by the county to LCA and LCA is threatening to jail folks if they can't afford to pay."
Private companies have developed a strategy to incarcerate individuals for their alleged crimes by strapping GPS shackles on their ankles. The use for these devices have more than doubled in the past decade. The largest providers of these devices in the United States are BI Incorporated and Securus Technologies. Both companies had histories of unethical profiting and exploiting criminalized populations. They’re also the targets of protests and court cases.
The dramatic growth started in the War on Drugs era during the 1980s. The number of Americans incarcerated went from 40,900 in 1980 to 450,345 in 2016. Sentencing laws, such as mandatory minimums, resulted in people convicted of drug offenses incarcerated for longer periods of time.
The FIRST STEP Act, short for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or H.R.5682 is a bipartisan prison reform bill passed by the House of Representatives on May 22, 2018. The bill’s timid reach is evident in its name, indicating the bill is only the first step in reforming the federal criminal justice system, with future reform on the horizon.
Every day between 400,000 and 500,000 people are behind bars who haven't been convicted of a crime, they are just awaiting their day in court. Senator Bernie Sanders has plans to change this. If his Bill passes, it would be a monumental victory for criminal justice reform across the country.
In the classic children’s board game Chutes & Ladders, players move along a game board by rolling a dice, encountering either ladders that advance their progress, or chutes that send them slipping backward.It’s an analogy for the predicament 40 million Americans are soon to be in is fitting. The game carries an eerie resemblance for those who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to move them past the scary pitfalls associated with income inequality and food insecurity.
“His wife knocked on the door one morning and burst into tears, and explained what happened,” Gruffudd recalls. He describes a certain despair accompanying the excitement in the visiting area, “full of families and children, dressed in their Sunday best.” Meanwhile, the inmates appeared emotionally and physically deteriorated.