Posts Tagged ‘courts’

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Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c180703.tif  600_212687

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14R0DA.AuSt.79 Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

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Many poor Americans face jail when they can’t pay steep fines for nonviolent crimes, like $1,000 for stealing a $2 beer. That’s because many courts have adopted the “offender-funded” probation model, which fills the coffers of private probation companies and forces taxpayers to pay for the incarceration of poor debtors.

In January 2013, Clifford Hayes, a homeless man suffering from lupus and looking for a night off the streets, walked into the sheriff’s office in Augusta, Georgia. It was a standard visit: he needed police clearance, a requirement of many homeless shelters, to stay overnight at the Salvation Army.

Hayes expected to go straight to the shelter. Instead, he was handcuffed and later thrown in jail. Hayes hadn’t committed a crime – or at least, he hadn’t in many years since 2007, when he committed several driving-related misdemeanor offenses, for which he pled guilty and was put on probation. That probation left him $2,000 in debt for court fines – and fees he was supposed to pay to a private company the state hired to monitor him until his probation ended. Hayes needed to pay $854 to the court to avoid a jail sentence; because he had no money except a $730-a-month disability check, he was thrown in Richmond County lockup.

The cost to taxpayers of Hayes’ eight-month jail sentence: $11,500, according to Georgia court documents.

This is the twenty-first century American equivalent of debtors’ prison.

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Richard Fidler [ht: eo] reports that the Bolivian government recently announced that workers will be permitted

to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, or unjustifiably closed or abandoned. These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance.

The idea of Bolivian workers taking over and running abandoned factories is not unlike the enormously successful movement of “recuperated enterprises” we saw in Argentina in the early 2000s. With one difference, of course: in Argentina, the workers often had to struggle against the government and the courts to take over the abandoned enterprises; in Bolivia, the president of the country is promoting the idea.*

Now take the idea one step further: what if the government—whether in Argentina, Bolivia, or the United States—actually supported the formation of worker-owned enterprises, not just in the case of closed or abandoned factories and offices but in starting enterprises from scratch and even assuming control over parts of existing corporations? That would be an extension of democracy within the economy worth talking about.

 

*Here is a link [pdf] to the Supreme Decree 1754 (in Spanish), which was signed on 7 October 2013.