Episode

1/24 The Real Criminals Who Criminalize Poverty w/ Tony Messenger

January 24, 2022

Sam and Emma host Tony Messenger, Metro columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to discuss his recent book Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes The Poor In The Name Of Justice, on how municipalities across the US have instituted a system of debtors’ jail, trapping poor folks into a system of punishment and payment with no way out, solely as a way to help fund their local “justice” infrastructure. Messenger first dives into what he learned after the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and the growing realization of the pervasive nature of courts using fees and fines to lock poor people into a cycle of debt and incarceration, to the point that, throughout the US, it became viewed as simply how criminal justice worked, fundraising from powerless communities rather than wealthy ones. Tony then walks Sam and Emma through the stories of three women across the US – one of Kendalia Killman in Oklahoma, one of Brooke Bergen in Salem, Missouri, and lastly that of Sasha Darby in Colombia, South Carolina – diving into how courts, the legislature, and private debtors manipulate a pervasive presence of invisible fees and fines for going to jail and being arrested to capitalize on the lack of power, free time, money, and legal knowledge of everyday Americans, resulting in years of abuse and extortion, and devastating effects to the health and well-being of them and their families. After touching on the unanimous rejection of these “debtors’ jails” at the level of State Supreme Courts, Messenger explores the roles of local legislatures and Courts in breaking the pipeline from poverty to prison, and having to parse through and deconstruct the myriad legal fees and clauses created to entrap the populace into it. Sam and Emma also touch on the building tensions on the Ukraine border with Russia, and the progression of this conflict behind George W. Bush’s promise to Ukraine almost two decades ago.

And in the Fun Half: Sam and Emma take on the legitimacy of discussions around the Overton Window, before unpacking the illegitimacy of the overtime window in the NFL, Lee from southern IL lays some well-deserved compliments on the staff, and Chuck Todd and Elissa Slotkin take on the disgusting and childish nature of pointing out that representatives aren’t doing their jobs. Tucker promotes whatever the candy-version of furrydom is, VA school districts attempt to claw some power back, and a parent threatens revolt, David from KC dives into misdemeanor class persecution, and Emily from Wisconsin calls in to chat about the horrors of Social Security disability insurance, and the trappings of government-enforced poverty, plus, your calls and IMs!

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