Released in June 2020, this Report provides an comprehensive overview of the role private companies play throughout the criminal justice system and how the use of these private companies impacts low-income individuals moving through the system. The Report summarizes research done by other entities, academics, journalists, and activists on specific aspects of privatization. The organization of the report tracks the sequence of a typical accused individual's experiences in the criminal justice system following arrest, demonstrating how costs compound as the individual moves through the system.
The Report acknowledges that courts and other government entities sometimes need to import expertise they lack, but it urges governments to recognize how low-income individuals too often can be relentlessly ensnared in the criminal justice system, not because they engage in ongoing criminal activity, but because they cannot pay the debts imposed by the system itself. Too often, by hiring private companies to handle what were previously governmental functions in the criminal justice system, government agencies exacerbate the cycle of mandatory fees, nonpayment, and consequent additional fees. Far too frequently, government authorities allow private companies to operate in the criminal justice system with little or no oversight and to charge fees untethered to actual costs.
The Report urges the ABA to adopt specific policy on the privatization of services in the criminal justice system, as well as to promote the policies, already in existence, calling for careful limitations on fines and fees.