MANSFIELD: Try to Follow the Money — If You Can

Governmental balancing of budgets on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable, those without adequate advocacy, is a time-honored American tradition. What are they going to do about it — except maybe die? And as long as it’s Ray-Ray from 93rd and St.Clair, or Stefan from the near Westside, really, who gives a shit?

That’s why a record seven individuals died in county custody in less than six months, and it wasn’t as if officials were not warned that conditions in the county jail had deteriorated to dangerous levels. They were, but they elected to ignore the signs since bigger and more important signs were being dangled in their faces: Dollar signs.

The horrendous conditions at the lockup are due primarily to overcrowding, which is a function of individuals not being able to make bail, and the reason they can’t make bail is due to insurance industry lobbyists.

Allow me to elucidate.

Bail bond agents are actually insurance agents. What they do (for a fee) is provide what’s known as a “power” to the courts — which is an insurance policy — that will indemnify said court if an indicted person fails to appear for trial or sentencing. The only problem with this construct is, how does the court lose money if the person doesn’t show up? It doesn’t, so why set a bail? So that the bail bond agent can make money off misery. Under the American system of jurisprudence, bail was never to be used to keep people in jail, but, like other aspects of our legal system, that concept has been perverted.

Know this: The insurance industry (which all bail bondsmen are a part of) is the richest and most powerful in the world. It loans banks money. And their lobbyists are among the cleverest in the country; in fact, they’re slicker than snot on a doorknob. Sherlock Holmes would be challenged to find the trail of money from the insurance industry coffers to the pockets of lawmakers and judges that in turn prevent bail bond reform. The problem is, too many greedy folks are profiting off the current system.

If that’s not the case, then why the hell hasn’t bail reform been accomplished?

However, there is another upside to the present system. The courts (and prosecutors) know that after sitting in that hellhole on Lakeside Avenue long enough, an accused individual will cop a plea to anything — including setting the Cuyahoga River on fire back in 1969 — just to either go home or off to prison. Hell, they’ll eventually start making up shit, like they know the location of the Lindbergh baby shoes if that’s what the prosecutors want to hear.

Also, by virtually abdicating its responsibility to keep those in custody safe in a humane environment, county officials knew they were opening the door to privatization of the healthcare in the County Jail. The method is as simple as it is effective: Cut services to the point people are dying, and then (like Atlanta did) throw up your hands and cry for help.

Riding to the rescue will be Alabama-based NaphCare, which provides similar services in 37 other county jails around the country. This is the company Ken Mills was negotiating with to take over healthcare in the Cuyahoga County Jail. Again, follow the money if you can.

Here’s the problem with privatization of detention facilities: The goal of society is supposed to be to create equitable living and financial conditions among the populace so there is no crime and therefore we no longer a need to lock people up. Of course, such a Utopian ideal will never be accomplished, but it’s the direction we’re supposed to be moving in as a society.

However, when private providers from the prison/industrial complex are brought into the equation their goal is entirely different. They are not attempting to reduce crime and incarceration, but increase the population behind bars, which increases their profitability. The officers of those corporations (by law, mind you) have a duty to maximize the profits for shareholders or they could end up in the same hellholes they help create.

As always, follow the money.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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