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Tuesday TED Talk: How jails extort the poor

We hope you've been enjoying our weekly Tuesday TED talks about the justice system, crime in America, democracy, the rule of law, and mass incarceration curated by Wayne Powell.

In this talk, Salil Dudani discusses the problems created in our country by a bail-based jailing system. As an investigator with civil rights lawyers, Dudani reflects in his experience with racial profiling, debtors prisons, and how the justice system disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities. Salil Dudani works as a legal activist for Civil Rights Corps, a nonprofit dedicated to researching and representing those affected by poverty jailing and systemic injustice in the legal system.

With almost four decades of experience as a practicing attorney, Wayne Powell knows the barriers that exist for individuals living in poverty, and the impact that a debtors based legal system plays in undermining justice. As an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division in the 1980’s, Wayne worked as an advocate against pre-trial detention that is designed to punish poor and marginalized members of communities in the Commonwealth.


Here are some of the quotes and concepts from Mr. Dudani’s TEDTalk that Mr. Powell found especially powerful and worth emphasizing:

“It is easy to forget how demeaning and coercive it is to cease control over another person’s body when your society has normalized the images of arrests and handcuffs.”

“Illegal extortion schemes aren’t being run in the shadows, they’re being run out in the open, as a matter of public policy”.

“Poverty jailing plays a very visible, central role in our justice system. In our bail system, whether you’re detained or free pending trial is not a matter of how dangerous you are or how much of a flight risk you pose, it’s a matter of whether you can post your bail amount.”

"We are told that jails are for criminals, but in reality, that’s not the case. 3 of every 5 people in jail in the U.S. are there pre-trial; they haven’t been convicted or plead guilty to any offense.”

TED is a nonprofit devoted to welcoming highly-trained professionals, educators, authors, researchers, and creative thinkers from every discipline and culture to spread innovative ideas to national and international conferences and lesson series. Powell Law Group in Virginia hopes you have been enjoying our Tuesday TED Talk Series. You can CLICK HERE to see others we have shared.