Things are worse than ever in Ferguson, Missouri and in similar cities across the United States.

When the DOJ visited and reviewed Ferguson’s financial issues they learned that the City Manager pressured the Chief of Police regularly to bring in new revenue – and he did – by targeting black citizens.

Ferguson is not the only American city where the local authorities target minorities in order to create and expand debt that their citizens cannot keep up with. They will never be able to pay these debts off but the city wants them in debt to them just so that they can keep the revenue stream.

A $50.00 parking ticket can’t be paid for years becoming a thousand dollar debt because the city doesn’t want to settle the problem or have the $50.00 fee paid – they are encouraged to keep the debt on the books to ‘build it up’ into a larger number.

Thousands of innocent people cannot work because they now have criminal records that show up when they apply for jobs. Some are issues as simple as making noise in their garage during their children’s birthday parties or parking a car in their own driveway. It doesn’t matter how slight the incident is, police are encouraged by the city to help build the community’s coffers by fining blacks for anything they can get away with.

Ferguson, Missouri authorities are not at all glad that the Department of Justice showed up during the Michael Brown related riots. They feel Eric Holder was intruding in what they feel is their town. They have not changed anything about their practices since the DOJ report was released. They continue to target blacks in order to increase fines and fees for the city’s benefit.

As of today, 17%+ of the city’s revenue is financed by these trumped up charges and their associated interest and late fees.

Sadly, it does not stop at Ferguson. The most secretive of courts the public has to deal with on a daily basis are Family Courts.

Family courts are able to secure all their secrets under the guise that they are protecting the family and the children’s privacy. The secretive manner in which they operate serve to hide all the errors and illegal steps they take against families.

Family Courts in the United States bring in the largest revenue to counties across the country. When the Department of Justice examines Family Court financial records across the nation they are going to find these courts are extremely well financed, corrupt court systems and that this behavior is occurring in Europe and everywhere else in the world where courts are able to seal records supposedly for the protection of children.

The sealing of records mostly serves to protect the lawyers and judges that run these courts. The children get to escape family courts when they age out of the system at whatever the majority age is in their state.

 



The photo that touched so many last year is that of Hedy Epstein whom when asked why she was at the protest replied, “Few people recognize oppression except those that have lived through it or survived it.” Hedy is 90 years old and a Holocaust Survivor. She felt compelled to participate.

A human rights activist and Holocaust survivor, Epstein had been following the unrest in nearby Ferguson, where an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by police on August 9, 2014.

“I’m Jewish and I was born in Germany, so I think I can understand what it feels like to be African American in this country,” Epstein says. “I was a child living under the Nazi regime and I lived in a village so everybody knew who I was and that I was Jewish. I remember feeling uncomfortable walking down the street, seeing people cross to the other side of the street, or seeing a Nazi I didn’t want to pass by.”


The United States Department of Justice
released full unedited reports describing its professional assessment of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, the shooting of Michael Brown and the incidents that transpired as a result.

Mainstream media condensed the report for the public into versions they felt the public could ‘handle.’ We are offering our readers the reports exactly as they were released by the Department of Justice.

As SyndicatedNews readers, you know full well how to read and process information and extract that which is important. We did not change a word – these reports are raw and unedited.

Eric Holder and the DOJ’s consensus was that the city of Ferguson, Missouri had criminalized black citizens because it was profitable.


It’s Not Just Ferguson, MO

Cities nationwide are criminalizing blacks for profitability!

By Raven Rakia*

The Department of Justice confirmed yesterday what many of Ferguson’s residents have been saying, and protesting against, for months: the city racks up millions of dollars each year in fines and court fees by illegally harassing its black population.

What the federal government did not say, however, is that the practice of criminalizing black people to raise money for police and court systems is not rare; local governments across the country have been doing it for years—ironically, to offset the spiraling costs of the incarceration boom of the past three decades.

In an afternoon press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder described Ferguson as “a community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue.”

Holder said the pressure to keep revenue flowing has generated constitutional violations at “nearly every level of Ferguson’s law enforcement system”—including inappropriate use of force.

“Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue—starting with fines and fine enforcement—the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity,” said Holder, later adding…

“Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them.”

Holder’s conclusion, coming after an in-depth, six-month investigation in Ferguson, could have easily described many cities and local jurisdictions across the country.

As Nusrat Choudhury said in an ACLU statement back in January,

“the vicious cycle of linking racial profiling and debtors prisons,” occurs nationally and “in the process, poor people—disproportionately people of color—and their families suffer from the collateral impacts of jailing on employment, and housing.”

In Louisiana and Washington State, for instance, those convicted of a crime are ordered to pay court and processing fees that can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. In Washington State, the minimum fees for a felony conviction add up to $800, and in 2004 they averaged nearly $1,400. Poor defendants often wind up indebted and put onto a payment plan where interest accrues. The inability to pay can easily land them back in prison.

As was the case for Kevin Thompson, a black resident of Dekalb County, Georgia. He was put on probation for thirty days, during which he had to pay off more than $800 in fines related to traffic infractions. He describes his experience in an ACLU blog post announcing his involvement in a lawsuit to sue the city.

When he was unable to pay in that time frame, he was sentenced to jail time for “violating probation.” The effect on Thompson lasted longer than the jail sentence: “Even after I was released, I felt scared that police might arrest me and jail me again for no good reason,” he stated. “After all, DeKalb County and [the probation company] essentially jailed me for being poor.”

In Michigan, where residents are often jailed over unpaid traffic offenses, the ACLU profiled a mother named Kawana Young in a 2010 report on debtors’ prisons. Young received three arrest warrants for three previous traffic violations: driving without a license, playing her music too loud and having an expired tag.

She was jailed five different times because she was unable to pay hundreds of dollars in fines. In Michigan—unlike in Ferguson—data is not yet available on the racial breakdown of who is hit with these fines. But racial bias in traffic stops has been shown in cities across the state. In some towns, such as Ferndale, black people made up 60 percent of traffic stops, even though they’re less than 10 percent of the town’s population.

In Pennsylvania, parents are routinely fined for their kids’ truancy. When one child has more than three unexcused absences from school, parents must attend a truancy hearing where a judge may fine the parent $300, and also demand the parent pay court costs and fees related to the hearing. One school district racked up $500,000 in truancy fees during the 2008–09 school year—prompting the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the NAACP to file a lawsuit against the district. Not only can a parent be fined, failure to pay can result in jail time—and it has for hundreds of parents. Pennsylvania isn’t alone; other states, such as Texas, arrest and jail kids who have outstanding truancy fines when they turn 17.

So how did all of this start? Ironically, the trend appears to have been driven by the incarceration wave that preceded it. Many of the laws that states now use to impose court fees and fines were passed in the 1990s and early 2000’s.

“Jurisdictions began to look for sources of funding to support their criminal justice systems,” explains Alexes Harris, a sociologist at the University of Washington who is researching the topic now. “As a result of…hyper-incarceration that began in the mid-1970’s, systems of government could no longer afford what they were doing. Essentially, policy makers decided to shift the burden of the costs of prosecution, incarceration and criminal justice management onto the backs of the people it processed.”

While the court fees and fines generate revenue, Harris argues they are also about social control. “The legal justification for creating layers and layers of policies that allow courts to assess fines and fees from traffic tickets to misdemeanors to felony offenses is that jurisdictions need money to run their systems of justice. But in practice—in effect—the system turns into a strict system of control, and this control is over poor people.”

The Department of Justice offered twenty-six recommendations for Ferguson’s police and court system, including ending its reliance on arrest warrants to collect fines. The Civil Rights Division will now begin negotiating a reform plan with the city, which will be monitored by a court.

The flames of Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death captured the country’s attention, and brought the Justice Department to town. But what of all the other small and big cities across the United States engaging in the same practices? If we are to look towards Ferguson as a lesson, changes may come only following a sustained grassroots movement from those directly affected.

* Raven Rakia is a freelance journalist focused on policing and prisons and based in New York City.

 

 


FULL REPORT by the DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE on the
Shooting of MICHAEL BROWN in Ferguson, Missouri

DOJ Report on Shooting of Michael Brown by SyndicatedNews

Ferguson Police Department Report by SyndicatedNews

Pattern and Practice Charts by SyndicatedNews

The Department of Justice just released the Death by Arrest Statistics Report and its accompanying Data Quality Profile:

Arrest Related Deaths Program Assessment by SyndicatedNews

Department of Justice Arrest-Related Deaths: Data Quality Profile by SyndicatedNews

Ferguson, Missouri came into the national spotlight when Police Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown met. Information previously quieted for decades, came bubbling to the surface and information with no foundation became unsustainable and due to its scrutiny, harder to justify. The resulting racial tension in Ferguson prompted protest marches around the world. The statistics can be found on Missouri‘s official website. Below you will find visual graphic versions of these statistics.

Concerns by the citizens of Missouri and the Missouri legislature regarding allegations of racial profiling by law enforcement prompted the passage of state law Section 590.650, RSMo (2000), which was enacted Aug. 28, 2000. Racial profiling has been defined as the inappropriate use of race by law enforcement when making a decision to stop, search or arrest a motorist.

Grand Jury Testimony – FULL REPORT by SyndicatedNews

Missouri’s state law requires that all peace officers in the state report specific information including a driver’s race for each vehicle stop made in the state. Law enforcement agencies are required to turn in the data to the Attorney General, and the Attorney General is required to compile the data and report to the Governor no later than June 1 of each year. The law allows the Governor to withhold state funds for any agency that does not comply with the law. State law requires that all information be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by March 1.

The summary of statewide racial profiling data has been provided by Scott H. Decker, professor and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University; Richard Rosenfeld, professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Jeffrey Rojek, assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.








 

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