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JUSTICE

What It's Like to Get Caught in America's Private Probation Trap

In part two of our investigation into modern debtors' prisons, VICE examines how private probation can land vulnerable people in a cycle of extortion and jail time.

by VICE Staff
Aug 17 2016, 12:00am

Thousands of US courts outsource some services to for-profit companies that charge people exorbitant fees for their own probation. These companies naturally tend to keep people caught up in debt for as long as possible in order to make a profit. Failure to pay the fees can land people in jail and lead to a cycle of extorting cash from already-struggling citizens.

In part two of VICE's investigation into modern-day debtors' prison practices, we meet Thomas Barrett, a former homeless man who has paid thousands in probation fees over the theft of a $2 can of beer.