Group Protests ‘Pay-Or-Jail’ Sentences In Atlanta, Sends Letter To Mayor, Judge

first_imgAdd to My List In My List Legal Advocate Discusses Medical Abuse At Shut Down Georgia ICE Facility ‘It’s Fractured’: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan On Healing Republican Party Share For Whom The Bell Rings Related Stories Updated at 7:50 a.m. TuesdayJudges in Atlanta illegally impose “pay-or-jail” sentences on poor people, requiring them to pay a set fine or, if they’re unable to pay, to spend time in jail, according to a legal advocacy group.A court spokeswoman disputed that, saying people aren’t required to choose between paying a fine or time in jail.The Southern Center for Human Rights on Monday sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Municipal Court Chief Judge Christopher Portis saying that imposing such sentences on people who cannot afford to pay violates the U.S. Constitution.“Pay-or-jail sentences imposed on homeless people who clearly cannot pay are not only unconstitutional, they undermine the integrity of Atlanta’s criminal legal system,” the letter from Southern Center attorney Sarah Geraghty says.Court spokeswoman Tialer Maxwell said in an email that all those cited in the Southern Center’s letter were represented by a lawyer, except for one who declined a public defender’s services. All seven were sentenced through negotiated pleas, she said.“These are plea deals where the defendant, defendant’s lawyer, and the prosecutor discuss and agree on the terms of punishment, before the defendant goes in front of the judge,” Maxwell wrote, adding that a judge can then accept the deal as presented if the terms are fair and appropriate.Geraghty rejected that argument.“I don’t accept the court’s attempt to throw the public defenders under the bus,” she said, calling it the judge’s responsibility to impose a lawful sentence.“Public defenders are working hard to achieve the best results, but they are working within the confines of a court system that has long sanctioned this archaic sentencing practice,” Geraghty said.Maxwell also wrote that when deciding whether a plea deal is fair, a judge must consider the defendant and his or her history. The seven people referenced in the Southern Center’s letter had more than 300 total arrests between them, she wrote.The fact that people have prior arrests for similar offenses doesn’t make the sentences legal, Geraghty wrote in the letter.In recent months, Geraghty wrote, the Southern Center observed at least 59 cases when judges imposed “pay-or-jail” sentences. Those included the following people who, the letter says, pleaded no contest to the charges against them and were given a choice between a fine and jail time:a man charged with drinking beer on a city sidewalk: $75 fine or 30 days in jail;a man accused of being disruptive at a hospital who was charged with disorderly conduct: $200 fine or 10 days in jail;a woman charged with disorderly conduct and being disorderly while under the influence: $200 fine or 10 days in jail;a man charged with being a pedestrian on a roadway: $150 fine or five days in jail;a man charged with urinating on a city sidewalk: $150 fine or two days in jail;a man accused of shoplifting two packs of meat: $150 fine or five days in jail;and a woman accused of soliciting money on a train: $100 fine or three days in jail.Some were homeless and couldn’t afford the fines, so they all went to jail, the letter says. The judges didn’t ask about their ability to pay, the letter says.The cases are often “explicitly recorded in court documents” as “FINE OR TIME” sentences, the letter says. Maxwell wrote that that is simply a code courtroom staff use to show how a case has been resolved.Maxwelll wrote that the defendants in the cases cited by the Southern Center “were sentenced to fine and time, not ‘or,’” she wrote.Transcripts from two of the hearings provided by the Southern Center show that the judge in each case said he was imposing a fine and a jail sentence. But then the judge says the jail time “will be suspended upon paying the fine. The fine will be suspended upon serving the time.”That makes it clear, Geraghty said, that these are “pay-or-jail” sentences.A federal appeals court ruling from 1972 in a case originating in the Atlanta Municipal Court “unequivocally prohibits the Municipal Court from requiring an indigent defendant to pay a fine or serve a specified number of days in jail,” the letter says.The Southern Center previously wrote to Portis in September warning that the practice is illegal and urging the court to end it, the letter says.Monday’s letter asks for written assurance by March 20 that the court has issued an order to stop the practice and also for immediate steps to release anyone currently in custody on such a sentence. Otherwise, the letter threatens legal action.last_img read more

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New Cobb County Sheriff Aims To Make Sheriff’s Office The Best In the Nation

first_img Related Stories The new sheriff of Cobb County says the office will operate in truth, trust and transparency.“I will be out front when we do right, and when we do wrong,” said  Sheriff Craig Owens on Friday’s edition of “Closer Look.”Sheriff Owens, the first Black sheriff of Cobb County, was sworn-in just days before the new year. The retired army veteran, who formerly worked for the Cobb County Police Department, defeated longtime Sheriff Neil Warren in November.Owens says his military and law enforcement background firmly prepared him to take on his newest professional challenge of rebuilding trust between Cobb County residents and the sheriff’s department.“I think our citizens had lost trust in the sheriff’s office and I just felt it was the right time—and again, if not me, why not me,” said Owens.During Owens’ conversation with show host Rose Scott, he laid out his plans to make the sheriff’s office in Cobb County the best in the state and the nation through adequate training, discipline and professionalism.Owens also shared his plans for his first 100 days in office, which includes several new organizational changes, responding to COVID-19, addressing detainee health care at the detention center and the termination of the 287(g) program in the county.Guest:Cobb County Sheriff Craig Owens Sr.To listen to the full conversation, click the audio player above. 1:08 | Play story Add to My ListIn My List ‘It’s Fractured’: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan On Healing Republican Party Legal Advocate Discusses Medical Abuse At Shut Down Georgia ICE Facility For Whom The Bell Rings Sharelast_img read more

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Little Free Pantries Spread Goodies From Sidewalks, Let Neighbors Pay it Forward

first_imgRELATED: High School Kids Start Food Pantry to Keep Classmates From HungerThe Little Free Pantry project has been giving communities the chance to provide for local people living in poverty, by erecting small cabinets and filling them with food and school supplies, free for the taking.Even if your neighborhood is not suffering from impoverishment, the pantries can still be used as a method of sharing your surplus with those around you.Since its first unit was erected by Little Free Pantry founder Jessica McClard in 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, dozens more have been constructed around America by people eager to spread the compassion.MORE: Judges Are Refusing to Jail People Who Can’t Pay Fines, Choosing Community Service InsteadIt’s such a great idea that it has spawned a spin-off organization known as the Blessing Box—run by a Christian church group and filling their own set of pantries in Ohio.“How I’d love to have it function is that it would not necessarily be a place for people who are really in need, but just for anyone,” Jessica told Shareable. “On the last day of school, I put some bubbles and jump ropes, and sidewalk chalk, and balloons in the pantry. I had to encourage the parents to send their kids there because they didn’t think it was for them.”MORE: Crochet Community Piles On the Yarn for Princess Wigs for Kids With CancerAnd while regular food kitchens have set hours of operation and requirements, the LFP’s accessibility makes it an easy 24/7 fix for anyone nearby.“I feel that the Pantry could potentially be for everyone. I took something out of it and took it home because I wanted to know what that felt like. It felt really good. It felt like community.”CHECK OUT: Woman Donates Entire Toy Store to Kids in Homeless SheltersIf you want to build your own LFP, you can Google “Little Free Library plans” to find different specifications, measurements, blueprints, and tips. Once you have your pantry at the ready, you can organize a group of friends, family, or church-goers to keep it stocked during the week.Check out the Little Food Pantry’s Facebook page and website to hear about new boxes being erected by generous folks around the world.Join In The Generosity, Click To Share With Your Friends on Social Media…AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to EmailEmailEmailShare to RedditRedditRedditShare to MoreAddThisMore AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to EmailEmailEmailShare to RedditRedditRedditShare to MoreAddThisMoreIf you’re already a fan of the Little Free Libraries that provide free books to anyone passing by, then get ready for the Little Free Pantry – a project that is erecting tiny boxes stocked with goodies that leave no small impact on neighbors who don’t have enough to eat.last_img read more

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