Saturday, July 26, 2008

Probation service scams traffic violators

It's a scam, it's a scam, it's a scammity-scam, it's a scammity-scam-scam-a-scam! Burp!

You better hope you don't get a minor traffic ticket in Americus, Georgia. Americus is one of many towns that now farms out its oversight of traffic violators to a private probation service - a move that supporters claim saves the taxpayers money.

But this has turned out to be a load of roo gas. It's actually a scam that hits the poorest citizens the hardest. If you're well-off and you happen to get a traffic citation, you're probably pretty safe. But 28% of people in Americus live below the poverty line, and if you don't have the money to pay your traffic fine right away, you end up eventually paying more than those who do. That's because you have to pay it in installments for 3 to 12 months - and the private probation service charges $35 a month.

If it takes you a year to pay your fine, you may end up paying over 2 to 3 times the amount of the fine.

To add insult to injury, judges threaten to throw violators in jail if they dare to complain to the court clerks about this rip-off.

In Americus, an atmosphere of intimidation and fear now reigns. And I'm sure this environment isn't limited just to Americus. It probably plagues many towns that have probation scams like this.

The system knows that it's setting folks up for trouble by making them pay extra fees to the probation firm in addition to their fines. It's like when my county started making jail inmates pay for their stay and then sentencing them to extra penalties if they couldn't afford it. Or like that school system in Louisiana that suspends kids for dress code violations and then charges them with truancy.

The corrections industry is built on making criminals out of everyone.


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