A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores the way county and municipal courthouses trap some Americans into cycles of poverty and incarceration, as those who are convicted of minor crimes are saddled with exorbitant fines and fees—which can lead to prison and mounting debt for those who are unable to pay.
Rather than providing support to the poor, U.S. social policies appear designed to punish and stigmatize them. Nowhere is this more clear than in Tony Messenger’s book ... Every once in a while there is a voice calling out in the wilderness to draw attention to a particular social injustice. And every once in a while, perhaps because of the righteousness and eloquence of that voice, the message is heard. Profit and Punishment epitomizes that voice ... Messenger has done his readers, his community and the nation a great service.
... a timely and important revelation of 'a national crisis' ... Like any good journalist, Messenger grounds relevant data and theory of a broken system in the experiences of those who interact with ... With each case...Messenger drives home the point: this is the criminalization of poverty in action, creating modern-day debtors' prisons that run counter to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and repeatedly lock up individuals for their inability to pay the self-perpetuating debts that courts place upon them. It's 'an American epidemic... [a] tragic cycle of profit and abuse' that should enrage anyone who comes to understand it.
Messenger persuasively, passionately exposes these injustices and their devastating consequences, points to recent bipartisan reform efforts, and calls for nationwide dismantling of this system of profit over justice. His book merits a wide readership among policymakers, legal practitioners, students, and general audiences.