Illegal Jailing of Defendants in Washington State County 

Illegal Jailing of Defendants in Washington State County 

The ACLU (a.k.a. American Civil Liberties Union) recently sued Benton County, Washington for creating what they call a “modern-day debtors’ prison.” This is because the county is sending people to jail or requiring them to join a work crew if they can’t pay their court fines. According to the ACLU this is making the poor even poorer.

What’s Happening in Benton County?

benton_location_in_MNAccording to the ACLU Benton, County District Court has penalized defendants for quite some time now with no regard as to whether they can actually afford to pay such fines. This practice was even detailed in a report in 2014. Many judges objected to this report stating defendants can speak up at the time of sentencing if they’re unable to afford such fines. These judges claim they’re following the law and doing what’s fair. However, the ACLU claims judges are doing this without a prosecutor even being present in the court room.

There are also claims that public defenders don’t have much of an opportunity to explain why their clients can’t pay because they’re poorly funded and trained, which means defendants don’t have meaningful counsel. Of course, this violates the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits debtor jails.

Even with all of this information under consideration Benton County is still requiring defendants either join a work crew and receive $80 in credit for each day served or receive $50 credit for each day they sit in jail.

The ACLU’s Class Action Lawsuit 

acluLogoThe ACLU filed their class action lawsuit in the Yakima County Superior Court as part of their campaign to combat the court fine’s effect on poor defendants. This comes after they filed a report in 2010 looking at Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington about why courts impose these fines in the first place. They also noted these fines tend to compound when they factor in things like interest and late fees. According to the ACLU this contributes to the impoverishment faced by some defendants and for others it’s led to people being incarcerated because they couldn’t pay. While this is permissible, it’s only permissible if the judge has made sure the person can actually pay, which this lawsuit claims never happens.

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Nusrat Choudhury from the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project says this practice is especially alarming today because since the recession these fines tend to hit people really hard. This is especially true since some jurisdictions have become more aggressive when it comes to collecting them. While things work differently in various jurisdictions, Choudhury claims there’s still the fact that some people are being unfairly jailed simply because they’re too poor to pay the court fees.

In early 2015 DeKalb County, Georgia found themselves faced with a similar lawsuit. They chose to reform their system. What will happen with this case is yet to be seen. In fact, as of today, the court hasn’t made any comment about this case. However, Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller did state that he informed judges and county commissioners two years ago that he didn’t agree with this practice.

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Protection For Whistleblowers: Myth Or Reality?

Protection For Whistleblowers: Myth Or Reality?

What Is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the act of reporting wrongful doings in the company you work in.  In this way you are intermediary between the law and justice and the perpetrator. If you would like to make the world a better place for tomorrow, you should not look the other way today when you see violations taking place. This is the high road in life which everyone should take, but which unfortunately not everyone takes. Whistleblowing is often regarded as something negative, but in the end it is one way in which you can contribute to your community, state, and ultimately society. 

Who Are Whistleblowers?

Any employee is allowed to report any illegal activities which may take place in a company.  Some people believe that because their duty to report such activities to the authorities.  Whereas, others are afraid of potential consequences and retaliation which might occur as a result of reporting a violation of the law to the authorities such as Whistleblower Lawsuits.  Of course, since whistleblowers are well protected by the law it can be said that this fear is completely ungrounded.  But then, different scenarios arise.  What if the company has been wrongly accused?  There are of course such instances, too.  Nonetheless, in this article will focus on protection which is offered to whistleblowers, and whether it is truly effective, or just a myth.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and The Whistleblower Protection Program 

A number of regulations have been specifically designed in order to protect whistleblowers. OSHA, or The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put tremendous efforts into protecting whistleblowers and providing them with protection in more than one way.

whistleblowerFurthermore, OSHA has developed a Whistleblower Protection Program.  This program enforces the statutory and regulatory provisions in order to protect employees who had reported violations of the law in their workplace.  Also, with the Whistleblower Protection Program, the whistleblowers are protected from a variety of retaliations, even all of the most imaginative sort.  While other laws and regulations that are oriented as towards protecting the safety and well-being of the whistleblower, the Whistleblower Protection Program, protects whistleblowers from many other scenarios too, which might damage their otherwise normal lives.

Also, the Whistleblower Protection Program protects various whistleblowers. Those who report matters of concern regarding airlines, environmental violations, commercial motor carriers, financial violations, food safety issues, clothes products, health insurance frauds, motor vehicle safety, nuclear safety, utility pipelines, public transportation, railroads, ships, securities violations, as well as many others which are protected by the Whistleblower Protection Program.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 

SOX-Sarbanes-OxleyAnother important Act which protects the best interest of the whistleblowers is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 goes beyond the legal remedies that are prescribed for the apparent violations and offers protection for whistleblowers that go far beyond it.

Therefore, protection for whistleblowers is real and you should not afraid retaliation or refrain from brining the wrongful doings to the face of justice.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general information. For any specific information concerning your situation, it would be for the best that you consult an expert in order to provide you with some proper legal advice. 

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