Human Rights Watch reports on the prison-industrial complex creeping further outside of the prison walls:
Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private companies that charge their fees directly to the probationers. Often, the poorest people wind up paying the most in fees over time, in what amounts to a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, companies can and do secure their arrest.
The 72-page report, “Profiting from Probation: America’s ‘Offender-Funded’ Probation Industry,” describes how more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services.
Thomas Barrett, destitute and living primarily off food stamps, was arrested in 2012 for stealing a can of beer valued at $2 and was sentenced to probation with Sentinel Offender Services, a for-profit firm. Despite selling his own blood plasma twice a week to raise money, Barrett fell more than $1,000 behind in his payments and was jailed for failure to pay.