Category: General

Podcast/Article: The United States of Cory Booker

I listened to this podcast this afternoon. I’m not interested in the political argument of pro democrat or not.

But in listening to the guest, Sen Booker, he’s quite pro criminal justice reform. He’s quite inspiring in his ideals of working with both sides of the isle.

There is a great conversation that the host and guest have about elections and how important it is to get out there and vote.

I hope you guys and gals enjoy.

Podcast/Article:
The United States of Cory Booker

URL:

Description:
The United States of Cory Booker
This content comes from:
Freakonomics Radio

URL:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/freakonomicsradio

Profitable Justice: For Whom?

by Michael Reynolds

Statues of Justice found in courthouses hold a balance scale in her left hand and a sword in her right. She is sometimes depicted wearing a blindfold representing equality of persons before the law. I have never seen her with a purse at her waist.

However, in Georgia she should display the corporate logos of Providence Probation Services, Supervision Services, Sentinel Offender Services, and 30 other private companies employed by 600 municipal courts to perform a public service at no cost to taxpayers.

“Corporate Justice” results from the belief that government’s responsibility for public good can be sold without damage to the integrity of society. In this case, the public service sold to private industry is supervision of misdemeanor probationers.

These are Georgians who have made a mistake, been unlucky, or, as all of us do, chosen badly. To keep their job they drove to work without a license or insurance. Perhaps they changed lanes without signaling or they did not have the money to fix a broken tail light. Some smoked marijuana or had too many beers.

If they are fortunate, they have money to pay the fine and walk away. For them, the fine is an annoyance, not the probable loss of employment, driving privileges, or descent into hopeless debt.

The unfortunate, who earn irregular, subsistence wages and cannot afford to pay a fine, are incarcerated until the next municipal court session. Deprived of liberty, this person of limited means has already been dealt a punishment far in excess of the citizen who was able to pay.

Probationers are remanded to the supervision of a private probation company. Fines and probation fees plus charges for drug tests, ankle monitors, and other non-court-ordered ‘services’ typically add up to thousands of dollars. Far more than most of these people can afford to pay.

Misdemeanor probationers live in a world of tricks, traps, increasing debt, and continuous threat of jail. The system, infected with the profit motive, is designed to generate cash for probation company owners and a revenue stream for courts, not help offenders successfully meet their probation obligations.

It started in the 1980s when incarceration became the preferred vehicle of public safety and enforcement. The United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world, and Georgia prisons are weighing heavily on the state budget.

At the same time, the anti-tax movement strengthened and citizens decided it was time to stop paying taxes. Consequently, city and county commissions struggled with inadequate revenue.

Identifying a large untapped government trough in Georgia, former state corrections officials established private probation companies. They pitched cities “increased revenue at no cost to taxpayers.”

Local officials rapidly adopted the probation privatization strategy. They did not consider how increasing dependence of local judicial systems on cash from private companies would corrode impartial justice and public trust.

Thirty four private probation companies supervised 349,000 misdemeanors and traffic tickets returning $200 million in fines to counties between 2011-2013, according to Rhonda Cook’s investigative series on debtors’ prison in Georgia published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Georgia legislators obligingly passed a law exempting private probation company books from public accountability; no one knows how much they collect in fines and fees. We do know that Sentinel Offender Services, one of the largest, took in $1.8 million in the month of June 2012.

In 2012, Georgia had the highest rate of probationers in the nation, 6,192 persons per 100,000 adults — three times the national average. According to Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia’s excessive population of petty offenders on probation is a direct result of the use of private probation companies.

These companies maximize profits for themselves by keeping as many petty offenders on probation as long as possible to collect as much as possible in supervision fees and charges.

As one of our local judges said to me recently, “…there’s not much probation management aimed at helping a person; it’s about collecting the money.”

This scheme is not costless to our community. Its expense is both immediate and cumulative.

Responding to complaints from citizens and law enforcement, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts undertook a two-year investigation of the private probation system. They uncovered non-existent or inadequate financial controls and reports as well as compromised separation of powers between local judicial departments.

Last spring Governor Deal signed legislation designed to correct the worst abuses of the private probation system. That is good, but it will not restore integrity and public trust. When profit infects governmental institutions that must operate impartially to protect the public, private interest will find a way to disguise or hide the damage it does.

On Wednesday the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit in White County on behalf of probationers Rita Sanders Luse and Marianne Ligocki against Sentinel Offender Services, LLC and probation officer, Stacy McDowell-Black.

The suit charges non-court ordered drug tests at probationers’ expense were forced on the two grandmothers. Additionally, Sentinel and its probation officer regularly coerced payments with the threat of immediate incarceration at the discretion of the probation officer. Both charges are violations of the Constitution, the Georgia Constitution, and Georgia law.

Elimination of private probation in Georgia is the only safeguard against corroded justice for Georgia’s citizens.

Michael Reynolds, a Rome resident retired from Georgia Tech, is a graduate of the School of Theology at Boston University. He writes for the website MOVE GEORGIA FORWARD and may be reached at MoveGeorgiaForward@gmail.com.

http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/opinion/columns/guest-column-profitable-justice-for-whom/article_5a7b1c28-d90c-11e5-a259-7b9f3090c84d.html

Still time to register: 2016 Lobby Day to Enhance the Chance – February 29th

http://www.gjp.org/news/2016-lobby-day-to-enhance-the-chance/

2016 Lobby Day to Enhance the Chance – February 29th

posted on January 13th, 2016
2015 Lobby Day Logo
Monday, February 29, 2016

8:30 am – 1:00 pm

What: Georgia Justice Project’s fourth annual Lobby Day to Enhance the Chance will gather citizens from across Georgia to lobby their legislators at the State Capitol. Policymakers will address attendees and impacted citizens will share their stories.

Issues: We will lobby Senators and Representatives to vote for legislation to lift the lifetime ban on food stamps for individuals convicted of felony drug offenses and to restore the intent of Georgia’s First Offender Act. More details on these and other policy objectives, as well as specific pieces of legislation, will come soon.

Tentative Schedule:

8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.: Arrive at Central Presbyterian Church (201 Washington Street SW, Atlanta, GA, 30303)
9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.: Orientation and morning refreshments
9:45 to 10:00 a.m.: Walk to the Georgia State Capitol
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Lobby with legislators
11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Lunch and closing remarks at Central Presbyterian Church
Where: We will gather at Central Presbyterian Church (201 Washington Street SW, Atlanta, GA, 30303).

More details to come. Please contact Ben Jernigan at ben@GJP.org with questions or click here to register for the 2016 Lobby Day to Enhance the Chance at the Capitol.

Obama signs International Megan’s Law

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/obama_signs_international_megans_law.html

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday signed legislation named for a Hamilton girl that’s designed to alert foreign governments when registered sex offenders travel abroad.

The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and cleared by Congress last week.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith first introduced the legislation in 2008

The bill was named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old from Hamilton in Smith’s district who was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by convicted sex offender who lived across the street. The original Megan’s Law passed by the New Jersey legislature to require public notice when a sex offender moved into a neighborhood.

Under the new law, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are to inform foreign governments when registered sex offenders are visiting their countries, and to receive information when they come to the U.S. from abroad. In addition, passports issued to registered sex offenders will contain an identifying mark.

A 2010 Government Accountability Office report said that at least 4,500 U.S. passports went to registered sex offenders in fiscal year 2008. In addition, it seeks to have the U.S. informed when convicted sex offenders from overseas travel to this country.

RSOL PLANNING TO CHALLENGE HR 515 WHICH MANDATES THE ADDITION OF “UNIQUE IDENTIFIERS” TO PASSPORTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS

RSOL PLANNING TO CHALLENGE HR 515 WHICH MANDATES THE ADDITION OF “UNIQUE IDENTIFIERS” TO PASSPORTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS

Albuquerque, N.M.— Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. is disappointed that the U.S.House of Representatives ​concurred with HR 515​ as amended by the Senate on February 1​. HR 515 will require, for the first time in the history of the United States, the addition of “unique​identifiers” to the passports of American citizens. ​ ​​The U.S. Senate added the historic requirement as a Floor Amendment offered by Senator Mitch McConnell on December 17, 2015​. ​

RSOL believes that the Senate amendment requiring the unique identifier ​may be in​ violation of Wooley v Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1997), which holds that the government cannot force someone to physically carry the government’s message. The passports with their identifying marks would be doing just that​.

“The citizens of this nation should be afraid, very afraid,that a unique identifier will soon be added to their passports,” stated Brenda Jones, RSOL’s E.D. “​Who will be the next targeted group​? ​” As passed by Congress, the Secretary of State is required to add a “unique identifier” to the passports of citizens convicted of a sex offense involving a minor. The list of offenses includes non-violent, non-contact offenses ​and even some that are non-sexual. “Passports today are used as a primary form of identification,not ​just to enter a foreign country,” stated Jones. “A passport symbol that identifies an individual as a registered sex offender places that person and others traveling with him or her at significant risk of physical harm.”

In addition, HR 515 establishes a center designed to notify foreign countries that the individual plans to visit that he has been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor. This notification will be sent regardless of whether the individual has been deemed to be rehabilitated by a state and therefore is no longer required to register as a sex offender.

RSOL is gravely concerned that the notification provisions of HR 515 have the potential to harm thousands of Americans who ​have completed their sentences and are no longer required to register as sex offenders. In such instances, the federal government ​will substitute​ its judgment,which will not be based upon an investigation of the individual, for the judgment of a state government that has conducted such an investigation. Furthermore, no evidence exists suggesting that the passage of this bill or its subsequent enforcement will address the issue for which it is intended.

National RSOL and many of its state organizations lobbied in opposition to the passage of HR 515. Before it becomes law, the President must approve the legislation​.

RSOL does not in any way condone sexual activity between adults and children, nor does it condone any sexual activity that would break laws in any state. We do not advocate lowering the age of consent, and we have no affiliation with any group that does condone such activities.