Daily Archives: November 13, 2017

South Carolina to Stop Jailing Poor People for Unpaid Traffic Tickets

By: Eric Levits, Source: NY Mag, Originally Published: 11.9.17

In the United States, many municipalities rely on fines from traffic violations and other misdemeanors to fund basic government services. The upside of this means of revenue generation, from a political perspective, is that it’s invisible to most voters, and painless for rich people (who are often campaign donors).

But the policy’s downsides are considerable.

For one thing, you generally need to milk those fines from the most disempowered community in your area (any police chief who aggressively cracks down on every little misdemeanor rich, well-connected people commit won’t be in office for long). But the thing about disempowered people is, they don’t have a lot of money. So it can be a real hassle to get them to pay up. And then, if they wish to contest their fine in court, you’ve got to provide them with an attorney. Pretty soon, you’re spending more on collecting the fines than they’re even worth.