Crime pays for bail bondsmen, private prisons, others

Is it possible that those who become tangled in the criminal justice system, unwittingly become commodities for trade and profit?

Prisons, bail bonding agencies, and a plethora of other fringe industries have found a new market in our area, which is growing by leaps and bounds.

Crime pays, for those who learn how to profit from the loopholes and special accommodations in the law.

It begins with bail. In Louisiana, a person who is charged with a crime has a right to bail unless the person is a danger to the community or a flight risk.
Bail is not supposed to be about money, but it is, and “bail bonding” is big business.

A person with a $10,000 bail must place the amount in escrow with the local court. When the case is complete, the entire $10,000 is returned, even if the suspect is found guilty. A bail bondsman posts an insurance policy guaranteeing that the suspect shows up, but the suspect has to pay $1,000 or more that is not returned. Bondsman split his take with the insurance company and everybody laughs all the way to the bank.

Many people without revenue to post a cash or property bail remain in jail for months and sometimes years waiting for a trial.

If a person has roots in the community, a family, a job, and other indicators of stability, why should a cash bail be necessary?

Bail bonding is big business, but it shouldn’t be because only those who are serious flight risks or violent offenders should be subject to bail.

Big money is made from prisons, too. Even though taxpayers pay for the Ouachita Correctional Center, which is not full, a group of investors started another prison for profit called “Richwood Correctional Center.”

RCC is all about profit. Last year when the owners found they could make as much as $60 a day for housing immigrants for the government, RCC evicted the local prisoners and took the high paying ones. Folks in the Richwood community were quiet because they were profiting from the deal, too.

If all of the local prisoners are now being housed on the Pea Farm, why should local governments return to paying Richwood to keeps it’s suspects?

It’s still about the money. The jails make money from inmate labor. Some are bussed to the chicken farm in Farmerville; others work at local businesses on what is called “transitional work release.”

When payday comes, the sheriffs in each parish pick up their paychecks. That’s fine, except that the inmates are then charged for toilet tissue, soap, transportation, and other essentials usually provided by the jail. When the smoke clears, most of their weekly checks go to the sponsoring law enforcement agencies. The inmates, many who are not convicts yet, are contracted out to private companies for a profit.

Providing services to inmates is about money, too. Inmates pay heavily for the privilege of making a phone call. Some allow internet visits with family, but even though its a “SKYPE” style visit, inmates pay the private vendors big time for internet visits.

Concessions are higher in jail, even though there are laws that forbid exorbitant pricing by vendors.

Many of those who are incarcerated have not been convicted of a crime; they are waiting for trials. They are locked up because they are poor and can’t pay for the right to be free and arrange for their own defense.

Unfortunately, the system won’t change soon. Too much money is made from the criminal justice system. Bail bond companies stay open 24-hours a day waiting for new “customers.”

Local businesses appreciate low-cost inmate labor.

Everybody seems to profit from an increase in the inmate population, except the inmates themselves.

Lorraine Hansberry said it best, “The world is filled with the takers and the tooken.”

The poor are usually the “tooken” in this system of ours.

That’s unfortunate.