From today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A string of mishaps — including uncertainty about whom to call, voice mail messages left unanswered for hours and previous false alarms — combined to help double-murder suspect Derrick Yancey remove his ankle monitor and escape house arrest, according to a report issued Wednesday. . .
A DeKalb Superior Court judge, who revoked Yancey’s bond on Monday, blasted Pre-Trial Services for “a comedy of errors” that helped him escape.
Yeah, blame the monitoring companies hired by Pre-Trial Services. They’ll sure think twice about donating to the next round of judicial campaigns. Especially after getting hit with any civil lawsuits that arise from whatever Yancey does next.
I’m not saying that the private monitoring firms are blameless. But primary blame lies with the judge who let Yancey go free in the first place, over every tenet of common sense and protests by prosecutors and the victims’ families. She clearly realized he was a flight risk: why insist on electronic monitoring otherwise? Why let any accused double-murderer out on the streets before trial? It is unconscionable that the DeKalb County judiciary can issue a report on Yancey’s escape that doesn’t scrutinize — well, the actions of the Dekalb County judiciary. Maybe somebody else should step in. The courts are not a sovereign state.
You can learn a lot by following money trails. Unfortunately, the Georgia Secretary of State, Karen Handel, has not updated her office’s website to enable the public to see individual campaign contributions to judges. You have to go down to the Election Division of the Secretary of State’s Office to do that (1104 West Tower, 2 MLK Jr. Dr. Atlanta, Georgia 30334 404-656-2871).
Seeing who gives money to elect judges is a bracing civics exercise — sort of like a cold shower of droplets of realization that monied interests subsidize the election of sitting judges. I’m not saying that judges act beholden to those who pay to elect them — or, at least, most judges don’t. But what about the judges who do?
What about the legislators who do — and then tell the public that they believe the best way out of our fiscal crisis is to release prisoners to community control, conveniently supervised by the same private companies and non-profit organizations that contributed to their election campaigns? There’s a great deal of money in alternative sentencing. Of course, there’s a great deal of money, as journalists love to remind us, in prisons, too, but at least they have the added feature of actually keeping the public safe.
From where I’m sitting (staring out at a glassy bay as the morning porpoise cavorts in mangrove stands — sort of like the mural outside Underground Atlanta, only your feet don’t get stuck in abandoned gum staring at it), I don’t remember if Georgia’s election contribution records include donors’ companies, employers, or lines of work. I think they do, and that would make for interesting reading.
I was able to find the CEOs of the two private prisoner monitoring firms that dropped the ball along with DeKalb Pre-Trial Services when Yancey escaped. Bruce Thatcher is the CEO for Colorado-based BI Incorporated; Fletcher McCuster is the CEO for Arizona-based Providence Community Corrections. Did these men, or their employees, donate to judicial races in DeKalb County? Did other private companies seeking prisoner-monitoring or community-based prisoner rehabilitation contracts?
April Hunt’s article on the delays in reporting Derrick Yancey’s escape is worth a close, slow read. It raises all sorts of questions about the current system of monitoring convicts and accused felons in the community. As judges move towards placing more and more violent people on “community control” instead of behind bars, we need to think about the systems that will allegedly keep track of them. If the courts can’t adequately monitor a two-time accused murderer, what are they doing with garden-variety robbers, burglars and chronically violent gang members, like the ones who killed the young man in Peoplestown this week? Were they supposed to be behind bars, too?