To Prison For Poverty - Full Documentary - Brave New Films



To Prison For Poverty - Full Documentary - Brave New Films

Private probation companies charge excessive fees to low income people who can't pay small fines like traffic tickets. If they can't pay, they go to jail. Subscribe to Brave New Films on YouTube. Visit Brave New Film's Website (www.bravenewfilms.org).

Many people think that debtor’s prisons disappeared from American society just as surely as horse-based transportation. But in fact, people who are too poor to pay fines are still being threatened with incarceration -- and even imprisoned -- today. Add private, for-profit companies to the mix, and you've got a system that abuses those who can least afford it, with disastrous effects on poor people and communities of color .

If someone gets a traffic ticket and can't pay, the judge puts her on "probation," which really means being ordered to walk down the hall and sign up for a payment plan with a company that has a contract to collect unpaid fines and fees for the court. If the person falls behind on her payments and ever-mounting fees, including those charged by the for-profit probation company itself, company officers pressure her for payments, sometimes with threats of jail and arrest warrants from court. The end result is that poor people scramble to make payments they can't afford. And some even lose their liberty and go to jail.

Like payday lenders, these for-profit companies often seek contracts in cities and counties that are strapped for cash. The companies then offer to collect debts owed to courts with no cost to the government by charging probationers—the very people put on probation simply because they were too poor to pay. Then the companies charge probationers exorbitant fees. Hali Wood was hit with a $41 seat belt ticket. Her payment plan charged a monthly fee of $35.

Probation is supposed to help people return to their community when there is no public safety justification for keeping them behind bars. That goal is sabotaged by companies that are simply collections agencies on steroids.

Judges who run these courts can end this abuse tomorrow, by exerting more oversight of these companies, or by simply ending contracts with these companies where they have the power to do so. As we explore in our documentary, traditional public probation does a fine job of enforcing the law without a profit motive.

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Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are at the forefront of the fight to create a just America. Using new media and internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges corporate media with the truth, and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide. Brave New Films’ investigative films have scrutinized the impact of U.S. drone strikes; the war on whistleblowers; and Wal Mart’s corporate practices. The company’s films have received more than 56 million views online.

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