Today marks the United States of America’s celebration of independence from the imperialistic arm of Great Britain. Rather than wax poetically about the fallacy of the “land of the free, home of the brave” I’d rather focus on one population that is yet to indulge in the saccharine sweetness of American freedom — those caught within the American Prison Industrial Complex. However, I am not speaking of those trapped behind bars. I am speaking of those striving not return to their previous dungeons. I am speaking of those on probation for misdemeanor offences.
On the sleeper track, “Life in Marvelous Times” from The Ecstatic album, Yassin Bey (aka Mos Def) emotes, “…even when it’s free it ain’t cheap!” Those words couldn’t ring truer. The New York Times has recently documented the exorbitant fees being charged by private probation monitoring companies; these fees are so oppressive that one man is currently $10,000 in debt and has served over 24 months in jail over “traffic and license violations that began a decade ago.” Marvin Gaye would clearly agree that this ain’t living.
The fact is, many prisons and probation monitoring services have been privatized as a way to establish revenue streams for struggling counties. The result is companies that practice what is tantamount to usury under the guise of keeping people “free.”
As a result, many Americans find themselves close to incarceration simply for being unable to pay probation and monitoring fees for minor traffic violations. What part of the game is that? Where is the justice in interrupting households and decimating careers all for a minor debt? And why is it necessary for these organizations to raise their fees as if they are providing an actual “service” to a “client?” This is another example of capitalism gone awry. This is the powers that be flexing their judicial muscle on the powerless and penniless. It is a travesty.
What’s worse is that oftentimes these increases in fees go to pay “for such things as the retirement funds for various court officials, law enforcement functions such as police training and crime laboratories, victim assistance programs and even the court’s computer system.”
So, as you hover over the grill and offer tips to the brother cooking the ribs; shoveling a plate of potato salad down your throat while doing The Wobble with your family, think about those that have to trade “kicking in” on the cookout for paying for their freedom. Because neither freedom nor favor is free.
In the words of Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow, don’t take my word word for it you can read it on the NYTIMES.com site under Probation Fees Multiply as Complanies Profit
To purchase the book and for further reading, entertaining and enlightening visit:
Positive Energy Always Conquers Evil