Salil Dudani: How jails extort the poor
Salil Dudani - Legal activist
Salil Dudani has experienced the legal system from two vantage points: being detained by D.C. police on suspicion of "terrorist activity," and working as an investigator with civil rights lawyers challenging poverty-jailing. Full bio
and searched a man
and potentially dangerous.
the day of the detention, to be fair,
try to remain calm.
in Washington DC,
a police station for work.
to block my exit,
parked next to us.
then gathered near us.
spread on the police car,
to ignore the shaking in my legs,
about what I should do --
bright T-shirt, wearing glasses."
any of these details.
as they described me,
male with a backpack.
into their police reports.
by my own government in these terms:
to sweep the area I'd been in.
to see if I was on any watch lists.
to cross-examine me on why,
they weren't happy with me,
what they'd want to do next.
who patted me down
to see where the security camera was
was being recorded.
I was at their mercy.
from a young age
and arrests and handcuffs,
and coercive a thing it is
another person's body.
the point of my story
because of my race --
detained if I were white.
today is something else.
much worse things might've been
to plant an explosive,
for an hour and a half,
DC's poor communities of color,
endangering officers' lives,
it's better to be an affluent person
to blow up a police station
much less than this.
from my current work.
at a civil rights organization in DC,
a parking ticket in your life?
have paid your tickets as well.
couldn't afford the amount on the ticket
the money either, what happens then?
to happen under the law is,
arrested and jailed
across the country are doing
at Equal Justice Under Law
about a different aspect
their police force and their citizens.
of over two arrest warrants,
if, every time I left my house,
would run my license plate,
who have experienced this,
there's a bunk bed and a toilet,
into each cell.
and two people on the floor,
right next to the filthy toilet,
with blood and mucus.
connected to the toilet.
without any hygiene products,
about medical attention,
from the guards in there is sexual."
to this place and they'd say,
until you make a payment on your debt."
could call a family member
for days or weeks,
would come down to the cells
about the price of release that day.
the jail would be booked to capacity,
can come up with the money,
and the machine kept moving like that.
for panhandling in a Walgreens.
and his court fees from that case.
he survived a house fire,
of the third-story window to escape.
with damage to his brain
including his leg.
payments to survive.
not even food in his fridge.
except a small piece of cardboard
the names of his children.
He was happy to show it to me.
because he has nothing to give.
he's been arrested 13 times,
on that panhandling case.
until sometime in June
a few moments ago.
he's seen in Ferguson's jail;
a way to hang himself
was yell and yell and yell,
over five minutes to respond,
the man was unconscious.
and the paramedics went to the cell.
and they shouldn't have surprised me,
cause of death in our local jails.
of mental health care in our jails.
making seven dollars an hour.
to feed herself and her children.
and a minor theft charge,
and fees on those cases.
about 10 times on those cases,
and bipolar disorder,
to those medications in Ferguson's jail,
to their medications.
to spend two weeks in a cage,
and hearing voices,
that would make it all stop,
have serious mental health needs
any mental health care while in jail.
about this grotesque dungeon
for its debtors,
for me to actually see it
by our public officials.
that poverty jailing in general,
in our justice system.
you're detained or free,
of how dangerous you are
to post your bail amount.
was set at a million dollars,
and doesn't spend a second in a jail cell.
was unable to come up with 500 dollars.
Sandra Blands across the country --
their bail amount.
are places for criminals,
in jail right now are there pretrial.
in our jail in San Francisco
something like 80 million dollars
only because they can't post bail
for them to sit waiting for trial
they would receive if convicted,
to get out faster
the prosecutor wants and get out?
detainees, not criminals.
we'll call them criminals,
would never have been in this situation,
would have simply been bailed out.
what is he doing --
I want my money back."
depressing than the alternative,
about these issues
how we think about jailing,
who don't belong there.
that these stories can move us
like "mass incarceration,"
for days or weeks or months
to that person's mind and body?
are we really willing to do that?
hundred of us in this room,
jailing in this different light,
I was referring to earlier.
I hope it's with the thought
to fundamentally change --
on bail and fines and fees --
new policies replace those
in their own new way.
is required of each of us.
About the speaker:Salil Dudani - Legal activist
Salil Dudani has experienced the legal system from two vantage points: being detained by D.C. police on suspicion of "terrorist activity," and working as an investigator with civil rights lawyers challenging poverty-jailing.
Why you should listen
As a John Gardner Public Service fellow, Salil Dudani worked on civil rights cases challenging debtors' prisons and money bail. These included cases in Ferguson, Missouri, where people who could not pay fines and court fees were routinely jailed; Rutherford County, Tennessee, where a private probation company would extort impoverished probationers with the threat of jail; and San Francisco and Houston, where thousands of people are in jail cells every night because they cannot afford to post bail. Before this work, Salil was a defense investigator at the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C. He is now a student at Yale Law School.
Salil Dudani | Speaker | TED.com