On South Dakota’s impoverished Lower Brule Sioux reservation, $1.2 million of US government funding dedicated to providing the tribe with drinking water has disappeared. Roughly $2.6 million in federal money earmarked for education and other social programs went missing – after which the reservation’s school system had to be overhauled due to poor performance.
More children work in agriculture than in any other industry in the world. But the scale and complexity of the problem is no excuse for tolerating a practice that traps children in multi-generational cycles of poverty, or, worse, leaves them injured, maimed, or dead.
When for-profit companies make money off the criminal justice system through privatization of prisons, it often triggers serious public debate. But there has been precious little scrutiny of local governments that use courts to make money for themselves. We should all be paying closer attention, because that kind of for-profit justice often means shifting public costs onto a community’s poorest members and creating perverse incentives for courts to ratchet up the pain.