Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson and the modern debtors prison

"Our Saviors"
Readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of the police or our criminal justice system. But my criticisms to date have been largely leveled at the felony system. Our misdemeanor legal system is if anything more out if control as George Mason Economist Alex Tabbarok details in this post. I can attest to the fact what he reports in Ferguson is the norm in Missouri. Some examples:

1. Last year Ferguson collected in fines and court costs (not levied) $321 per household. In a poor city where many people cannot pay so the levied amount per household is say...$500? This of course excludes lawyers fees. They issued 3 warrants per household and this for a community with an 'average' violent crime rate for the United States.

2. People who cannot pay are routinely arrested and as they cannot make bail they sit in what in effect is a debtors prison until the municipal court meets which for some municipalities could be once a week or even once a month. 

3. I spent a day in the hateful hands of the St. Louis county jail (it is one if the reasons I despise the police with all my heart and soul and mind). Sharing the jail intake cohort (they have so many 'evildoers' that they process them in huge batches) with me was one violent criminal and over 100 nonviolent offenders in chokey because of drugs, prostitution or inability to pay their debts to the government. I have no doubt that each one of them left jail hating law enforcement as I do.

4. The reason Ferguson and cities like it can maintain large (almost all white) police forces in a poor 75% black city is that they farm the people for fines. In richer 'burbs they make sure they only loot non residents because middle class people vote. In poor black communities they just loot and loot and loot with the money they scam going straight back to their salaries and hot new police cruisers.  All of it nice and legal - like. No doubt Michael Brown's killer thought he was going to scam a cool $100 or $200 towards his quota for a jaywalking citation.

5. Sometimes the Badged Looters get lucky:  they find a doob or marijuana residue or a prescription pill in a car and as a result they get to steal the car without having to ever prove a crime in court. They then sell it and keep the proceeds for themselves - sometimes they even steal houses.* In states like MA that have banned this obviously criminal behavior, the local police conspire with the Feds to apply the Federal Government's truly vicious forfeiture laws who then gratefully kick back a percentage to the local crime family aka: the cops. Here's a summary of a recently resolved MA case for your shocked perusal.

6. A last outrage from Tabarrok's piece:
As a final outrage, consider this story which ties together Ferguson, the courts, and the arrest of parents, often minority parents, for leaving their kids to play in parks (just as my parents did).

According to local judge Frank Vatterott, 37% of the courts responding to his survey unconstitutionally closed the courts to non-defendants. Defendants are then faced with the choice of leaving their kids on the parking lot or going into court. As Antonio Morgan described after being denied entry to the court with his children, the decision to leave his kids with a friend resulted in a charge of child endangerment.

So when you see people in Ferguson going crazy over a "simple shooting" remember what the 'boys in blue' are doing every day to destroy faith in our laws and build hatred and fear of authority.  Frankly in my and most of the residents of Ferguson's eyes the police are worse than a mafia family.  Looters. Nothing but violent, armed looters who can steal and kill and get away with it.  Indeed, they can get most of you white middle class chaps to sing their praises.  Don Vito Corleone could never pull that off. Of course I've never been harrassed, looted and humiliated by an organized crime family either.

7. This provokes a question:  if back during Prohibition a revenuer found a beer in your house could they steal your house like they do today?  And if the police could have stolen any property that they found alcohol in back then do you think we would have ever gotten rid of prohibition?  Or would that just be another controlled substance that the affluent get via prescription and everyone else gets on the street where they are harassed, assaulted, shot and stolen from by the police?  Hmmm.

And if you think I'm just a pathetic, resentful whiner who had a bad experience I recommend you read Alex Tabarrok's piece and go to the (very right wing) Institute for Justice links I provided above.

A note on law enforcement:  I know and like individual policemen.  I've even liked one prosecutor that I knew - the lawyer cum parasites are a bit tough to take.  My uncle Slim was Sheriff of Ector County Texas for 20 years and I was and am proud of him.  Individual policemen have shown me forbearance and mercy - when they could have arrested and humiliated me for an unpaid ticket or another of the countless number of trivial oppressions produced by the therapeutic state.  However I stand by my statement that I hate and fear all law enforcement with all my heart and soul and mind for two reasons:

1. Forbearance is the 'gift' that the powerful give to the weak while both reminding them who is boss and who should be the grateful supplicant. It is not the behavior of free men in a free society.  We should not grateful that sometimes the bully does not beat us when we pass.  Because we know next time if the policemen needs a collar or revenue is down or if he's just feeling his oats he could behave completely differently.  Which makes his forbearance part of his frightening unpredictability and impunity in the land where everything is against the law.

2. Even when showing forbearance law enforcement today use policing techniques designed to emphasize the enormous gulf between us and them.  When I was young (late 70s, early 80s) I was in effect a "hippy" with long hair and a NORML sticker on my car living and driving through rural, redneck Oklahoma. The law enforcement of that time and place treated me with more respect, more genuine friendship and equality than they do to me today as a "respectable" white fifty something.  Back then I was a human being that they talked to face to face.  Today I'm a threat to be managed and risk being shot if I get out of my car to talk to them so that I won't be on the equivalent of my knees before them. And I despise them for it.

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