With the help of a judge, a pretrial services company in Baton Rouge has charged hundreds of inmates “ransom” in recent years by requiring they shell out hefty fees on top of their court-ordered bail before they can be released from jail, charges a new class-action lawsuit, The Advocate reports. The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center accuses Rehabilitation Home Incarceration (RHI), of violating state and federal racketeering laws by “extorting” an initial $525 payment and hundreds of dollars in subsequent fees from defendants assigned to pretrial supervision. “Those who cannot afford the fee languish in jail for days, weeks or even months as their loved ones scramble to assemble money to pay off RHI,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit, which names East Baton Baton Rouge Parish as a defendant, claims local jail officials have been complicit in “wrongfully detaining” inmates before they have paid RHI for their pretrial supervision. The lawsuit alleges that RHI has benefited from its political support of Judge Trudy White, who it says has “indiscriminately” ordered hundreds of defendants to complete services offered by the family-owned company — including electronic monitoring — without inquiring about their financial resources. The company, which does not have a formal contract with the court, provides its services through “an informal agreement” with White, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit says White ordered more than 300 criminal defendants to complete RHI’s services in 2015 and 2016.