Here’s Proof the Nation Has Learned Nothing from Ferguson

In Ferguson the poor get jail time for small-time non-violent, non-damaging infractions. A prosecutor and court in the Atlanta area were just fine with that.

garbage worker

The good news is that, when the court saw themselves in the light of a viral news story about what they had done, they reversed themselves. Nothing gives people a conscience like knowing that other people are watching.

But, until yesterday, it looked as if the prosecutor and the court were going to make an African American laborer serve time in jail for going to work too early and perhaps making too much noise at about 5am in the morning.

In case you are new to this blog, I mention Ferguson, Missouri, not because of any alleged abuse committed by any police officer but because of the revenue collection system that the police have been forced to serve. This system is unjust and hypocritical (though that judge has resigned, thankfully).

So now, if you have time, watch this video from an Eyewitness News in New York state and ask yourself if anyone is learning the lessons of Ferguson.

Yeah. A well-to-do white prosecutor won’t apologize for sending a black garbage man to jail for collecting trash before 7am. In the video embedded at the Sun-Times report on the story, it is not clear that the worker even knew about the Sandy Springs ordinance. He had only had the job for three months and there is no indication that he had ever been accused of this infraction before.

But this is what happens to people who show up to deal with a nuisance citation who don’t think they can afford a lawyer. The jail is hungry and they are on the menu.

In the video footage I have seen it doesn’t look like the dumpster where the evil crime was committed is even in a residential area. But, the law is the law, because we all know that the courts are every bit as strict on wealthy people.

As I said, according to a more recent report, the court has rescinded the sentence. Here is the official statement:

“There are times when taking a step back provides the opportunity for better perspective. In retrospect, the actions of the court with regards to Mr. McGill’s sentence for violating the city’s noise laws, was disproportionate to a first-time offense. As such, the court has amended its sentence to time served and further probation suspended.

City ordinances are implemented for the protection of quality of life within a community. The adherence to these laws is important, and the City is obligated to enforce these laws, which includes imposing sanctions against those individuals who break the law.”

I understand not wanting noise pollution at five in the morning. But there are real problems with inflicting the maximum penalty by surprise and imposing a penalty that is far more severe than the disruption caused, if any, by the infraction.

It is especially upsetting when we know these kinds of penalties and prosecutions almost always are aimed at people who can’t afford a quality lawyer.