Legal Methods Behind Arrests
A second method involved a defendant who, when faced with the likelihood of a conviction and the threat of being sent to a far-off work camp, would “confess judgment,” essentially claiming responsibility before any trial occurred. A local businessman would step forward to act as “surety,” vouching for the future good behavior of the defendant, and forfeiting a bond that would pay for the crime. The judge would accept the bond, without ever rendering a verdict on the crime. The defendant would then sign a contract agreeing to work without pay until the surety bond was paid off.
The contracts summarizing these agreements were often unfair. In many cases, the defendants were unable to read. Sometime, the contracts stated that the defendants agreed to be locked up and treated as a convict, to be physically punished, and that any expenses due to health care, new clothing, or re-capturing due to an escape attempt could be added to the total. In some cases, the contracts also allowed the debt and the defendant to be transferred to a new employer.
Author Douglas A. Blackmon tells the ruling of Judge Jones and the panic it caused.
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