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Fines & Punitive Measures:Do They Punish the Poor?


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May 31, 2018
Categories: Society

Fines & Punitive Measures:Do They Punish the Poor?

I don't often agree with the ACLU, but I do here. For the last decade or so, the ACLU has been leading an effort to give criminal and civil offenders some "grace" when it comes to paying fines related to their running afoul of the law. In some states they are fighting to apply this to all fines, whether criminal or civil. In North Carolina, for example, an offender can suffer an automatic license suspension if their traffic fines are not paid within 40 days. Many of us have received traffic tickets (parking, speeding, forgetting to register your car, etc). Fines can be expensive. Most can be paid on time. But what of those circumstances when you can't afford the fine within the designated time? Should an automatic punitive measure apply? Like a license suspension? Is that a good solution,or does it exacerbate the problem? Our criminal justice system is supposed to be restorative, rehabilitative, and punitive...whichever applies. In the case of criminal fines, it may take years to pay them back and LONG after a criminal has become a reformed citizen (if applicable). They may have the best intentions of paying them back, but need to decide between the mortgage/rent or the courts. Our goal here should be restoration: recoup the fine in a way that is rehabilitative and maintains faith in the system. I think the ACLU is on the right side of this one. 


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