Sharecropper Finance: Using the Justice System as a Public Revenue Source

This article compares the fines and fees practices of Ferguson, Missouri and other municipal governments with the older economic technique of sharecropping. In order to highlight how American laws, policies, and practices maintain racial hierarchy, the authors point to a set of commonalities between fines and fees and sharecropping: “financial dependence of Blacks upon Whites, a vulnerable population as a source of revenue, and limited mobility.”

To remedy these injustices, the authors recommend that public sector employees should exercise daily awareness of the potential for public services to exploit people who are poorly equipped to defend themselves from government action. A person convinced that agency practices are inappropriate might (a) quietly refrain from some behaviors that seem abusive and hope to avoid notice by peers or superiors, (b) actively refuse to engage in abusive behaviors, (c) openly call for change in practices within the agency, or (d) become a whistleblower by contacting outside groups or the media.

You can read the full text of Sharecropper Finance here, but it is behind a paywall.

Brandi Blessett, Richard Box
Public Integrity, Volume 18, 2016