User Pay Justice Coverage 2017-2019

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

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Funding is paid for by or on behalf of inmates in the user pay justice system. But the city only gets the payments after they are released. The more people being locked up, and the longer they are there, the more money is made. Compiled in this blog is community coverage over the last couple of years on how government interests in both public and private incarceration are protected:

User pay justice system loses money - The Advocate January 2017 (1)

Like other jurisdictions in Louisiana and across the country, New Orleans relies on defendants to help bankroll its criminal justice system, from fees paid to get out of jail on bond to a menu of charges that judges assess upon a conviction.

But a new report from the Vera Institute of Justice says that "user-pay" formula doesn't add up. The city takes in far less from those sources than it costs to house people who sit in jail because they either cannot afford bail or haven't paid their fines or fees, the report concludes.

The Vera report is the first attempt to quantify both the pre-trial and post-conviction tab that falls on arrestees in New Orleans — who pays, how much and what happens if they don't — in a system that relies on arrests and convictions to help pay the bills.

These findings quantified a financial burden that falls largely on black residents, who outnumber those arrested and convicted.

It found that black residents pay $5.4 million, or 84 percent, of the bond premiums and bond fees that go to bondsmen and public agencies. Black people in 2015 also were charged $2.7 million in fines and fees upon conviction, or 69 percent of the total.

According to the study, felony and misdemeanor defendants paid $4.7 million to bond agents in 2015 for the 10 percent premium those companies charge, in addition to $1.7 million in government fees on those bonds.

Those fees are split among the court, the District Attorney's Office, the public defender and the Sheriff's Office.

Meanwhile, a report issued by former New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's office recommended funding Municipal Court through a general appropriation and urged the city to lobby the Legislature to do away with fees to fund the court.

"This funding structure threatens the impartiality of judges by providing financial incentive to deny defendants equal access to justice," the report said.

User pay justice system drives mass incarceration - Prison Legal News May 2017 (2)

More recently, when New Orleans community leaders, the mayor, and city council called for releasing people who pose little risk and are held in jail only because they can’t post bail, the judges resisted that too, despite the fac