The suit also goes after the current contract between Clanton and JCS, alleging that their relationship violates Alabama law, which forbids city courts from charging individuals extra money for being on probation. Since 2009, Clanton has contracted with JCS to manage its pay-only probationers (individuals who are only on probation because they can’t pay their court fines upfront); however, the courts pay nothing for the for-profit company’s services. Rather, JCS makes money off of the additional fees it forces upon probationers. For example, JCS charges probationers a $10 “set up” fee and then an additional $40 a month for the privilege of having their money collected.
This system has been likened to now-illegal debtors’ prisons, and has raised questions about how misdemeanor courts are relying on small level crimes to bring in funds.
“We’ve seen over the past few decades local governments and state governments have turned increasingly to the criminal justice system to fund themselves where budgets have been cut for courts and jails,” ACLU attorney Nusrat Choudhury told to me.