Fact: There are almost 15,000 children behind bars whose most serious offense was not a crime.
Fact: Of these youth, 12,000 are incarcerated for violating technical terms of parole or probation (rather than a new offense) and 3,000 are incarcerated for, according to the Department of Justice, “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.”
Source: Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, Prison Policy Initiative
Fact: The juvenile prison population in America is approximately 71,000. Around 11,600 are imprisoned for “technical violations” of their probation or parole terms, rather than committing a new crime.
Fact: In 11 states, juvenile prisoners who are in jail because of parole or probation violations outnumber those for crimes against other people.
Fact: In 49 states, less than 50% of juvenile prisoners are imprisoned for crimes committed against people. Only in Massachusetts do juveniles imprisoned for crimes committed against people comprise a majority of juvenile prisoners.
Fact: At least 3,000 juvenile prisoners are locked up for things that are not a crime for adults, like “truancy” or “incorrigibility.”
Source: The Economist, America’s Prison Population
Fact: In 2005, the town of Harpersville, Alabama’s court revenues were its largest source of income – three times that of the town’s sales tax, it’s second largest source of income, and larger than all other sources of income combined.
Fact: Harpersville, Alabama, and thousands of other towns across the U.S. operate what are, in effect, “debtor’s prisons” according to one Alabama Circuit Court judge.
Fact: Private probation companies operate in at least a dozen states. In George alone, private probation companies supervise 260,000-300,000 people per year.
Source: The Nation, The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence
The Constitution ostensibly protects people from falling into this kind of debt-and-punishment trap. In the 1983 case Bearden v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that putting a probationer in jail for failure to pay a fine without first inquiring into that person’s ability to pay violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.