- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Baton Rouge pretrial supervision company holds inmates for what amounts to ransom even after they’ve paid their bond, by requiring a $525 fee to get out of jail and at least $225 a month to stay out, a racketeering lawsuit against the company alleges.

Rehabilitation Home Incarceration doesn’t have a contract but gets referrals from a state district judge with whom it has political ties, according to the federal lawsuit filed Monday in Baton Rouge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center .

The $525 fee “is the creation of RHI alone - it is not ordered by any court,” the class-action lawsuit says. “Those who cannot afford the fee languish in jail for days, weeks, or even months as they and their loved ones scramble to pay off RHI.”

And defendants often learn about the fee only when they or family members try to post bond, the lawsuit says.

Judge Trudy White declined to comment and company head Cleve Dunn Sr. couldn’t be reached, The Advocate reported.

White is not a defendant, but the lawsuit said she “indiscriminately orders” people to company supervision without checking to see if they can pay.

The company, Dunn, and East Baton Rouge Parish are defendants.

A state filing shows the company is set up as a nonprofit.

The suit says it “has profited off individuals in East Baton Rouge Parish by requiring them to pay hundreds of dollars to RHI to be released from jail - effectively holding them for ransom.”

“By unlawfully using the fear of arrest and jail … Dunn on numerous occasions extorted from Plaintiffs and the proposed Class a monthly supervision fee, along with fees for classes or other requirements imposed at the discretion of RHI employees,” it said.

White’s campaign paid Dunn for marketing, and Cleve Dunn Jr. chaired her campaign committee, the lawsuit said. It said the company paid former employee Frederick Hall and his wife, Gloria Hall, for campaign support activities. Gloria Hall “owns and operates the bond company to which RHI routinely refers putative supervisees,” the lawsuit said.

It said that RHI sometimes orders “supervisees” to wear ankle monitors or to attend classes taught by company employees, and to pay for the monitors or classes. Although employees told plaintiffs Henry Ayo and Kaiasha White - no relation to the judge - to pay for ankle monitors, no monitors ever arrived, according to the suit.

It asks triple damages or at least $10,000 for each of them and others in the class, if it is approved. Court records indicate that the judge ordered more than 300 defendants to RHI supervision in 2015 and 2016, according to the suit.

Judge White assigned Ayo and Kaiasha White to the company’s supervision without asking any questions about their cases, explaining terms of the supervision, or letting them ask questions about it, the lawsuit said. The company’s contract states that violating its terms means the “supervisee” can be arrested by an RHI official or local law enforcement.

It took two months for Ayo’s wife, who was working two jobs, to save for his $8,000 bond, only to learn then that she had to pay the company as well, the lawsuit said. The company agreed that he could leave after paying $225 down on the initial payment,

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