According to a statement, the ACLU is concerned that state prosecutors are getting paid to allow private companies to issue official threats of prosecution, which pressure individuals into paying those companies “program fees” to avoid criminal charges, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and national ACLU have filed public records requests seeking details about these so-called “private prosecution programs.”
The company in question is Corrective Solutions which administers a program they call “Misdemeanor Diversion – Community Accountability Program.” According to their website, the program:
The objective of CAP is to reduce caseload for Prosecutors and the Courts and to increase offender accountability. This is accomplished at no cost to the Prosecutor’s office, and at no cost to taxpayers. All costs are borne entirely by CorrectiveSolutions.
While they claim that there are no outward costs to the municipality, the ACLU is alleging that Corrective Solutions is threatening individuals who may or may not have been charged with a crime with prosecution and offering programs to avoid it.
“Are district attorneys renting out their letterhead and authority to for-profit companies that frighten possibly innocent people to pay fees and attend pricey classes with threats of criminal prosecution?” said David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. “State’s Attorneys need to provide full details about any such programs in Maryland, because they raise serious legal questions.”
According to a release issued by the ACLU, the organization is concerned about an apparently growing national trend of local prosecutors striking deals with private companies that allow the companies to threaten criminal prosecution using prosecutors’ official letterhead, targeting alleged bad check writing, for instance, even if prosecutors have not conducted any meaningful review of the allegations. The letters tell recipients that they can avoid prosecution by paying hundreds of dollars to attend “financial accountability” classes offered by the private companies. In exchange, the prosecutor’s office gets a share of the money raised from the classes’ attendance fees.