Yesterday I happened to be on an all-day drive, so I listened to a lot of NPR, and heard parts two and three of their series on how the bail system in American courts is broken. I didn’t care much for the human-interest style of journalism—the point could have been made far more effectively in one-third the time—but they focused on an excellent example of how systems are almost guarantee to break if people stand to make money from their workings.
The current system is costing cities and counties huge amounts of money (one-quarter of the budget in many cases) and imposing a huge financial hardship on people with scant resources, all for questionable results. Meanwhile, there is an alternative (pre-trial release with electronic monitoring) which costs about one percent what it costs to hold someone for trial—and allows them to continue living their lives, and earning money—but is being derailed by folks who lose money when it is used.
Most of the forty minutes it would take to listen to these stories would be wasted, but fortunately the NPR website has transcripts which can be read through much more quickly.