Over the course of 2 months and 39 interviews, the authors of this report aimed to better understand how the punishment of prison and its collateral consequences (and fines and fees in particular) affect individuals’ financial situations and stability.
Maria was recently terminated from a job in her field of training, green construction, because her license was suspended for unpaid tickets, and she could not drive between job sites. With two kids and no job or savings, she is unable to pay the debt. Because the debt has been referred to a collections agency, she is also prevented from performing community service in lieu of payment. Her previous employer would hire her if her license was reinstated, but without a job or income to pay her debt, she has no way of getting her license back.
Andrew, a 22-year-old single father, was working as a mechanic and making regular installment payments to the court on a couple of traffic tickets. A few months into the payments, his two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia.
Ms. Reynolds had started a new job and could not get time off to appear in court. She spent four days in jail before she was brought before the judge. She was fined $520, $662 in court costs, and received additional fees of $450 for her original failure to appear. No credit was given for the four days she spent in jail. Her options were to pay the $1632 total or be put on a payment plan supervised by JCS.
A woman received three citations during a single incident in 2013 in which she pulled to the side of the road to allow a police car to pass, was confronted by the officer for doing so, and was cited for obstructing traffic, failing to signal, and not wearing a seatbelt. The woman appeared in court to challenge those citations, was told a new trial date would be mailed to her, and instead received notice from the Missouri Department of Revenue several months later that her license was suspended.
Donyale Thomas was in the Ferguson jail for over a week before the City informed her that they would accept $200 for her release.
Roelif Carter pled guilty and was assessed fines and fees. Fear of jail coerced Mr. Carter to make the payment until he simply could not afford to do so.
Keilee Fant is a 37-year-old certified nurse assistant and single mother who was arrested for unpaid traffic tickets while taking her children to school. She was jailed over 12 times in 20 years for her inability to pay the debt.
In 2013, Edwards was stopped by police and ticketed for driving with a broken light over his back license plate. State department of transportation records show that when he didn't pay the $64 fine, his driver's license was suspended for two years. He kept driving and got more tickets.
Desiree Seats was 23 years old and a mother of a 4-year old boy back in 2014 when she found out her license was suspended before was ever granted one.