As of January 2018, over 1.4 million Texans had suspended licenses for failure to pay additional surcharges on a ticket for a driving infraction. Equal Justice Under Law has filed a lawsuit against Governor Greg Abbot and Texas’ Department of Public Safety to end this program once and for all and help affected Texans escape a cycle of poverty.
Between 2011 and 2016, Pennsylvania suspended the licenses of over 149,000 individuals as an additional punishment for non-driving-related drug convictions. Now, nine months after EJUL filed a class action lawsuit against the counterproductive practice, Pennsylvania has abolished it.
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.