New Hatcher Book Exposes How America’s Justice System Commodifies Children

Prof. Daniel Hatcher is an uncomfortable celebrity, but the publication of his new book in March 2023 made him a creature of the airwaves for weeks.

The maddening pace of his promotional tour, which also took Hatcher to Harvard University for a book talk, was testament to the amount of national interest in this timely but little understood topic. Earlier this month, an excerpt of Hatcher’s book, Injustice, Inc.,  was published in The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to “exposing the harms of a criminal legal system entrenched in centuries of systemic racism.” He has also been interviewed on numerous justice-themed podcasts and television programs like “Pittsburgh Now.”

Hatcher teaches in the Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic at UBalt Law. Like his 2016 book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens, his new book exposes the ways in which justice systems exploit America’s history of racial and economic inequality to generate revenue on a massive scale. Using detailed legal analysis, Hatcher uncovers how courts, prosecutors, police, probation departments and detention facilities are abandoning ethics to churn vulnerable children and adults into unconstitutional factory-like operations.

Hatcher reveals stark details of revenue schemes and reflects on the systemic racialized harm of the injustice enterprise. He details how these corporatized institutions enter contracts to make money removing children from their homes, extort fines and fees, collaborate with debt collectors, seize property, incentivize arrests and evictions, enforce unpaid child labor, maximize occupancy in detention and “treatment” centers, and more. Injustice, Inc. underscores the need to unravel these predatory operations, which have escaped public scrutiny for too long.

In a blog post he wrote for his publisher, University of California Press, available on its website, Hatcher explains his motivation to pull back the curtain and expose the heartless exploitation committed by institutions that were created to protect the most vulnerable.

“Inspired by the perseverance and determination of my clients,” the former Legal Aid lawyer wrote, “my own research strives to uncover structural failings within our justice systems that undermine equal and impartial justice. And what I found over and over again was how the systems commodify vulnerable populations to prioritize revenue and profit over justice.

“My research revealed a barrage of revenue schemes that were often buried within contract and budget documents. Our foundational courts, prosecutors, probation departments, police and sheriff’s offices, and detention and treatment facilities are all contractually collaborating with each other and with public welfare agencies—using vulnerable populations to generate revenue rather than ensuring their justice and welfare,” Hatcher continued.

“The moneyed operations are varied in structure but similar in unethical and unconstitutional mechanics, churning in symbiotic relationships: ‘In a vicious, racialized, industrialized, and monetized cycle, harm fuels and feeds from harm.’”

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