There is yet another reason why every elementary and every high school in Texas, and America, should teach a course on how to stay out of America’s jails and prisons. As you know, just yesterday, the Klansman, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, revoked former Attorney General Eric Holder’s executive order asking that low level and non violent offenders not be subjected to the harshest possible criminal charges. Sessions issued his own order yesterday demanding that prosecutors “throw the books” at defendants and charge them with the highest possible charge. What this means is that more black and brown people will now find themselves being charged with the highest possible charge if for no other reason than to allow prosecutors to extract plea deals with even longer prison terms. Trump and Sessions want to enrich the prison industrial complex even more and keep all prison beds full. For anyone who thought that a Trump administration would show any concern for the plight of people snagged in the criminal justice system then this is your wake up call. Trump himself, the lying thug, should be locked up for running a mafia operation out of the White House. He needs a life sentence for running a mob-styled “La Cosa Nostra” in plain sight. But that is another story.
Beyond losing your freedom when you find yourself snagged by the American criminal justice system, you should not be surprised that a price tag is also put on your head that turns you into a cash cow for the state, especially the state of Texas. If you will take the time to read the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 102, it is entitled “Costs Paid by Defendant.” As soon as you are arrested and charged with a crime you who will be hit with fees that are truly outrageous and nothing but a money grab. It would take three pages of text to describe all the fees that the Texas Legislature has authorized to be collected, including jury fee, clerk of the court fee, records management and preservation fee, peace officer fees that include fees to summon a witness, serve a writ, issue a warrant, give notice to appear, mileage fees, meals and lodging to serve a write, pretrial intervention fee, court supervision fees, and on and on. These criminal court fees are slapped on defendants who are too poor to afford their own lawyers, but this is of no concern to the money grabbers. When a person is convicted by a jury or takes a plea a deal, he or she will be given a list of fees that are truly laughable. People placed on probation will face a huge amount of fees in the thousands. And, these fee never go away—they are like carrying a dead man around on your back.
When a person is incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a court clerk must prepare a so-called Bill of Costs and give it to the defendant. The defendant can contest the fees, or, as with most, laugh at it. But, the clerk of the court can also do something else, that is prepare an Order to Withdraw Funds and send it to the Texas Inmate Trust fund folks and they can start taking money that your friends and relatives send to you and use it to pay your fees, fines and other court orders.
You might want to visit this website to read all about this taking of inmate trust fund money; http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-398121.html.
The Texas Government Code Section 501.014, entitled, “Inmate Money,” explains how money can be taken from an inmate trust fund, and the six priorities for how this seized money can be applied. The first is to pay court ordered child support, then orders for restitution, reimburse Health and Human Services for child health needs, all orders for court fees and costs, all orders for fines, any other court ordered fees to fees and court costs. A 2013 article entitled, “Texas Criminal Court Fees are a Tax on Poor Defendants” written by Matthew Clark, published in the Prison Legal News, claims that often the State of Texas uses these seized funds to pay general operating costs and to put use it for whatever they choose. You may read the article at this website: https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/mar/15/texas-criminal-court-fees-are-a-tax-on-poor-defendants/. You will be shocked by how inmate trust fund money has being taken and used by the State of Texas.
For family members who send money to inmates this can lead to money being taken from inmate trust fund accounts and applied to fees, costs, and other fines that family members don’t want to pay. Family members do not wish to simply abandon their loved ones while they are incarcerated so they send money. But family members do not plan to have their hard earned dollars taken by TDCJ and used to pay child support and other fines and court costs—or put in the Texas general operating budget. They want this money used by inmates for grooming and hygiene items, postage and to buy E-comm items. There is supposed to be a percentage limit on what can be taken from an inmate’s trust fund at one time, but, who knows what TDJC is actually doing. What can happen is that family members become outraged that their money is being taken for fines and fees and simply stop sending money, or instead send very small amounts. Either way, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice needs to be transparent and forthright and let depositors know that deposits to trust fund accounts can be taken by the state—and how much can be taken. Let’s hope TDJC will be forthright and do just that.
Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.