Sasquatch sighting at Nine Mile Falls.
Two articles from different news sources attracted my attention today. One by Kevin Johnson from USA Today, entitled Report: Some states charge poor for public defenders, recounts a New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice study that found 13 of the 15 states with the highest incarceration levels charge fees, including application fees, for access to counsel. The other article is Unpaid court costs can bring cycle of debt, threat of jail, ACLU warns, by Susan Kelleher from the Seattle Times. I recommend that you read both articles, but that you also consider this; more and more the system of criminal justice, especially at the local level, is run like an extortion racket. High court fees and fines are leveled irrespective of both the proportionality of the supposed offense, and the defendants ability to pay. Unconscionable fees are used to coerce admissions of wrongdoing, with threats of jail time used as the trump card.
I at one time heard a county court judge opine from the bench that he thought the state was more interested in collecting fines than reducing the amount of speeding on roadways, and have been told by an alcohol and drug counselor that it is well known that my state enforces zero tolerance for drinking and driving, even though the law allows driving w/ a blood alcohol level up to a threshold of .08 percent. Such churn provides massive infusions of money to the courts and ancillary services in the form of fees and other charges. According to this counselor the change in enforcement is due to reduced revenues to the state because of the economic recession. I was at one time ticketed on a backroad in Snohomish County for driving 1 mile over the speed limit. This carried a fine of $115. Everyone has encountered speed traps, where subtle changes in inclination or declination of the roadway cause subtle and inadvertant changes in car speed, and patrolmen are quick to pull you over rather than give you the moment necessary for awareness and adjustment. We’ve all heard of state patrol quotas for doling out speeding tickets.
Increasingly the citizen/defendant is seen by the courts and the criminal justice ecosystem as a profit center, and justice takes a back seat to optimizing this monetization. Common human behaviors become criminalized, even when such criminalization can be demonstrated to be ineffectual in reducing their occurence or alleviating their supposed harm (if any) to society. More often than not, the victims of this systemic abuse are poor, and end up saddled with debts or languishing in our already overcrowded and overused jail and prison systems. What we have to show for this is a nation with some of the highest levels of incarceration in the world, more violent and serious crime on the street, and less trust and respect for the rule of law amongst the general citizenry.