Here’s a report from New York’s bursting collections dockets:
Over the past decade, the number of debt collection lawsuits filed in New York’s courts has exploded, with upwards of 200,000 cases filed in 2011 alone. Creditors and debt buyers engage in an array of fraudulent and deceptive debt collection practices that siphon billions of dollars from New York’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Abusive debt collection falls along a continuum of discriminatory financial practices that pervade low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, long targeted by high-cost and predatory financial services providers.
The creditors and debt buyers that bring these lawsuits routinely engage in “sewer service” — falsely claiming to the courts that they have served people with court papers. They also engage in rampant “robo-signing” — mass-producing fraudulent documents that they then submit to the courts. Debt buyers — companies that buy old, charged-off debts for pennies on the dollar — file more than half of all debt collection lawsuits in New York, and systematically lie to the courts about key information that they do not in fact have.
Creditors and debt buyers engage in this fraud to obtain automatic, or “default,” court judgments, which they then use to freeze people’s bank accounts or garnish their wages. The judgments also appear on people’s credit reports, blocking them from housing, employment, and credit access. Consequences have been especially dire for low-wage workers, elderly and disabled New Yorkers on fixed incomes, single mothers, and domestic violence survivors — and now also New Yorkers affected by last year’s hurricane.
Now we have a powerful new industry, full of wealth, ready to buy politicians, in order to convince them to keep the prisons filled with non-violent drug offenders. The numbers presented by AlterNet are shocking:
From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project).
Within Denmark’s fixing rooms, addicts are provided the drugs (such as heroine, methadone or cocaine) they would otherwise break laws to obtain. Nurses supervise. England is debating whether to open its own fixing rooms.
In Copenhagen’s fixing room, eight people at a time, and another four in a van parked up in the courtyard, inject, in the knowledge that they are being watched over by nurses and are taking their drugs in a clean environment using sterile needles, a dose of saline solution, a cotton bud and a pump, all provided by staff. . . . Year on year, burglaries in the wider area are down by about 3%, theft from vehicles and violence down about 5%, and possession of weapons also down. “From the police perspective, I can see the benefits,” said Orye. “It feels calmer.”
Steven Rosenfeld writes at Alternet:
A Pennsylvania judge in the heart of the Keystone State’s fracking belt has issued a forceful and precedent-setting decision holding that there is no corporate right to privacy under that state’s constitution, giving citizens and journalists a powerful tool to understand the health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling in their communities.