Fully Informed Jury Association

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 06 Dec 2013

-Private Prisons Drive Need for Jurors to Understand Jury Nullification

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Fence_of_Prison-BPOWhat is driving the high rate of incarceration, which is largely populated with non-violent offenders who have committed victimless offenses but have harmed nobody? For-profit incarceration. In fact, some states are contractually obligated to provide a certain quota of prisoners to private prisons, regardless of the actual crime rates.

What?!? Private Prisons Suing States for Millions If They Don’t Stay Full

In the Public Interest has reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning “quotas” for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those contracts reviewed. Those quotas can range from a mandatory occupancy of, for example, 70 percent occupancy in California to up to 100 percent in some prisons in Arizona.

The unjust effects of such agreements are far-reaching:

What makes these deals so odious and unscrupulous? Take a look:

1) The offer included a demand that those prisons remain 90 percent full for the duration of the operating agreement. You know what that means: if there are not enough prisoners then there will be an unspoken push for police to arrest more people and to have the courts send more to prison for petty, frivolous and nonviolent crimes. There will also be a “nudge” for judges to hand down longer or maximum sentences to satisfy this “quota.”

2) Private prison companies have also backed measures such as “three-strike” laws to maintain high prison occupancy.

3) When the crime rate drops so low that the occupancy requirements can’t be met, taxpayers are left footing the bill for unused facilities.

As the for-profit prison system increasingly incentivizes government abuse of decent people for the purpose of meeting contractual incarceration quotas, fully informed juries become more important in protecting our communities from this insidious injustice. Conscientiously exercising the power of jury nullification, jurors can protect our human rights from being sold out for the benefit of corporate profits.

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