Human Rights Watch

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US: Private Probation Harming the Poor

Programs Shift Costs to Offenders

Tuesday 20 February 2018


(Washington, February 20, 2018) – The cost of private probation supervision disproportionately harms the poor, often criminalizing a person's inability to pay their probation fees and court costs, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.The 81-page report, "'Set up to Fail': The Impact of Offender-Funded Private Probation on the Poor," documents private probation company practices in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. These states allow private companies to supervise probation for minor crimes, including misdemeanors and criminal traffic offenses. Individuals pay their probation fees directly to the company. But many courts fail to recognize that when an individual is living in poverty, the fees force them to sacrifice basic needs, such as food, housing, and transportation, to pay the probation company. When an individual cannot afford payments, they can face arrest, extended probation, or even prison. 

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