Criminalization of Poverty
DOI link for Criminalization of Poverty
Criminalization of Poverty book
Investigations after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, laid bare an unfair pretrial justice scheme of fines, fees and cash bail across the country that generates revenue for municipalities on the backs of citizens who have a hard time paying their bills. Beginning in the Reagan period, in the wake of the United States’ tax rebellion, states and municipalities both slashed budgets and looked for revenue wherever they could find it. Especially courts and enforcement systems found revenue by raising fines and fees, especially from drivers’ license suspensions. The strategy resulted in something like 10 million people owing some $50 billion at any given point. Since Ferguson, knowledge about judicial abuses that result in crippling fines and unnecessary detention has expanded, and people are pushing back. The question now is to turn the issue of pretrial justice into a national movement. The challenge is to get journalism in all its forms fully involved in an effort to drive cuts in fines, fees, bail and other aspects of the criminalization of poverty. This chapter will illustrate examples in which journalism has made a difference either on its own or, even better, acting in partnership with judicial leaders and advocates pursuing litigation and legislation.