This past spring, there was heated legislative debate over a bill to raise probation and parole fees from $67 to $100 dollars a month. That was for supervision of people who’d been convicted of crimes. But now a federal lawsuit says people who’ve merely been charged with crimes are being required to pay nearly four times that amount -- if their case lands before one state district judge in Baton Rouge.
“When people are arrested and they come before her for a bond hearing, she forces everybody to pay money to a private company for monitoring and supervision, without any consideration of whether they can either afford those services, or whether they even need them,” says Louisiana ACLU director Marjorie Esman.
The class action suit -- filed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center late Monday -- does not name Judge Trudy White as a defendant. But the company involved – Rehabilitation Home Incarceration (RHI) – and its C-E-O Cleve Dunn, Sr., are named for alleged civil rights violations and alleged racketeering.
“The allegations are that they are extorting money from criminal defendants to benefit this private company, which then supports the re-election of the judge – and that’s what makes it a racketeering conspiracy,” Esman explains.
The suit states that in addition to being required to post bond, plaintiffs have been required to pay RHI fees, in order to be released from jail before trial. The company charges a $550 registration fee, then $250 per month for “supervision” until their case is heard.
“These are flat fees, that the company sets themselves. It’s not set by the court,” Esman maintains.
“The judge only sends people to RHI, not to anybody else. And she sends everybody to RHI,” Esman adds, saying that’s a violation of the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process, while the entire scheme appears to violate the 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.
No hearing date has yet been set.