Traffic tickets. They seem innocuous as they are quite common, but the reality is, your financial situation dictates whether or not a ticket is a simple nuisance, or the start of a downward spiral into debt, license suspension and further economic hardship.
For families who are already struggling to make ends meet, they receive a ticket and are faced with the gut-wrenching choice: do I go to the grocery store and buy food for my family, pay my rent, or pay this ticket? This false choice has led to millions of Americans being in debt for old traffic tickets they simply cannot afford to pay, and often driver’s license suspension. In California alone, over 8 million people hold an estimated 6.5 billion in delinquent debt on traffic tickets filed prior to January of 2013. This issue is compounded for low-income communities of color, as data shows that license suspension due to unpaid traffic tickets or failure to appear rates are highest in low-income neighborhoods that are predominately Latino and Black, a symptom of over policing and bias in law enforcement in those communities.
This interactive, discussion-based webinar, explored this issue and discussed innovative policy reforms that you can advocate for in your municipality to help balance the scales of justice. Co-hosted by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, participants of this webinar gained insight into why this issue is paramount to take on when thinking about bringing racial equity to your community, and will learn of a local effort being led by San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project. A promising practice, the Financial Justice Project aims to assess and reform a range of fines, fees, and financial penalties that disproportionately impact low income San Franciscans and people of color. Their staff will discuss how they got started, challenges and wins, and lessons learned. Participants were also introduced to specific policy measures and key recommendations to help mitigate the perils of high traffic fines and fees.