Roadscapes Stuff

Sunday Discussion: Road Talk


Harpersville, AL Debtors Prison Stopped

http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/07/judge_halts_debtors_prison_by.html

If you have ever driven through the small town of Harpersville, AL on U.S. 280 you will know what I am about to say.  The police have been well-known to operate speed traps along the highway and most of the time when I go through the town I see someone pulled over.  But the latest story to come out of the small town has many people buzzing in a bad and negative way.  Circuit Judge Hub Harrington from Shelby County has taken control of all cases from people who were jailed for failing to pay court fines and fees.  It would make sense if you have fines and refuse to pay them; then you should go to jail.  But this story involves the city using a private probation company called Judicial Corrections Services for  people who can not pay the fines immediately.

If the defendants could not pay the fine because of money troubles they were locked up; sometimes on bogus failure-to-appear complaints, resulting in more charges that led to more fines, court costs, and more debt.  One of the attorneys representing a defendant said in the comments why I think this is a crazy case.

One of the more egregious practices in Harpersville Municipal Court, which is not mentioned in the article, is the fact that the Judge sends indigent persons to the Shelby County Jail (Harpersville does not have its own jail) and passes on the $31 per day charged to them by the jail to the prisoner. Alabama law requires that a prisoner be credited with $15 for each day served in jail so the prisoner is actually having a net charge of $16 per day ADDED to his sentence! This means that the sentence is indefinite and a prisoner could never work off his fines and court costs while incarcerated. Thus, the prisoner owes more money to the city than he did when he was originally incarcerated. This is why Judge Harrington characterized the practice as “Debtor’s Prison.”

All of this is making me think why this is going on in America.  I thought America has outlawed any debtor’s prisons but some cities have come up with ways to partner with private firms to make money.  At some of these private jails and prisons the more people you keep the more money you make.  And the way fines are assessed it makes these people stay in debt for a long time and more likely ending up in jail.  This should be illegal!  You have to give people a chance to pay their fines and not force them in jail.  I am very glad that Judge Hub Harrington is shutting down something he amounted to a judicially sanctioned extortion racket.”

Read the judge’s order at the link below.

http://media.al.com/spotnews/other/Judge%20Hub%20Harrington%20order%20to%20Harpersville.pdf

I-759 Extension Trouble

I read this article from the Gadsden Times about the I-759 extension that is badly needed through East Gadsden.

http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20120712/NEWS/120719942?tc=ar

Johnny Harris from ALDOT said the FHWA wants “additional alternates that would avoid that area completely” to be considered. Most of the structures that would be affected by the proposals would be considered “historic” since they are 50 years old or older.  And it’s true the area being proposed for the interstate extension would go through neighborhoods with many older homes.  I made a map of the possible extensions below.  The red line would go around the college and school.  The orange line would go north of the college and through the area to connect to U.S. 278.  But the Federal Highway Administration wants the area around the yellow line to be considered.  This would take the road up to the new shopping center and the Goodyear plant.  This option would not solve the traffic problems.

Map not to scale.

So if the FHWA does not want the area already considered for the extension because of the homes that are over “50 years old”, why is this route I have mapped out below not being considered?  Why not take I-759 around the back of the college and down toward College Blvd.  You would not have to contend with many homes and a good part of the route is already built.  This would seem like a great option to me.

No doubt something has to be done to solve the traffic nightmare on Meighan Blvd.  These pictures below show the serious traffic problem on Meighan Blvd. at Hood Ave.

This last image is a huge traffic light backup coming out of a shopping center on Hood Ave. which includes a Wal-Mart, Petco, Etc.  The light only lets around 3-5 cars out at each cycle.  This traffic jam will get worse with an addition of another shopping center when it is built.  The I-759 extension is needed big time!  Not only the East Gadsden area needs a bypass but the Attalla area needs a bypass as well.  Someone from ALDOT and the federal government needs to get that ball rolling!

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