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New Iberia, Louisiana: Two Women Spend Five Days in Jail, Bailed $1500, For Supposedly Stealing Two Hot Dogs

2016-03-29

Two middle-aged women were arrested in New Iberia, Louisiana, after a convenience store clerk accused them of stealing two hot dogs and two drinks.  They protested that the surveillance video would show that they only used the microwave in the convenience store to heat up some soup that they had bought elsewhere.  They were nonetheless jailed on $1500 bail, as neither the police nor the prosecutor could be bothered to look at the surveillance video.

The incident started for them when a policeman stopped them and told them of the accusation.  He gave them a summons to appear in court to answer the misdemeanor charge.  Since they were visiting New Iberia from Texas, 400 miles away, they could have ignored the summons.  However, they took the time and trouble to return to court on the appointed day.  When their case came up, they were asked to plead guilty or not guilty and another appearance was set for two months later.

Since they were from Texas, however, despite the fact that they had never been arrested before, the judge set their bail at $1500.  Naturally, they did not have nor could they raise that money, so they were thrown in jail.  The bail bondsman refused to offer them a bond because they were from out of state.

It was only five days later, after the incident was publicized in a local newspaper, that a lawyer who had never seen them offered to post the entire bail himself and represent them pro bono.  If it had not been for this and several other offers prompted by the news, they would have been forced to wait in jail for two months to appear for this misdemeanor charge that could have been voided if anyone had bothered to review the surveillance video from the convenience store.

Is it necessary for me to mention that these two women were black and that Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration of any state in the US or any country in the world?  Is it necessary for me to repeat the polemic I just  published an hour ago?

The only thing to add is that Louisiana has outsourced its jails to private industry, and now imprisons people for profit.  The federal government sued Louisiana for its excessive rate of incarceration of black people, so the state government sent many of its prison inmates to local jails.  The local governments then contracted with private companies to run their jails.  The private companies pay the government for the privilege of imprisoning people and then is paid by the inmate.

This creates an incentive to jail more people, to which the companies respond by shuffling inmates from one parish to another as surpluses and deficits of prisoners occur.  Empty cells cost the companies money, so they push the local government as well as the state to give them more prisoners.

The result is people imprisoned for trivial offenses or for no reason at all, awaiting trial with excessive bail.  This is a gross human rights violation and it is visited on minorities and “people of color” (blacks, Hispanics, even Asians and Arabs) excessively.  This situation approaches a police state if it doesn’t meet the definition already.

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