Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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"Modern Debtors' Prison": Ferguson, MO

This link to a New York Times article about Ferguson, Missouri, throws light on a hidden means of harassment: persistent traffic fines that, if unpaid, result in arrest warrants, increased penalties, and jail time. The Ferguson police averaged three arrest warrants per Ferguson household last year! Furthermore, the article says, "The city’s traffic fine revenue has increased 44 percent since 2011, city records show."

When these facts and others were brought into Ferguson court, the Ferguson government announced changes: reducing the amount of the city budget covered by traffic fines, and recalled outstanding warrants for one month.

This means that quite a few Ferguson citizens won't get trapped in a cycle of being issued a ticket with a fine, being unable to pay on time, and having subsequent fees added to the original amount -- plus getting jailed when they can't pay the increased amount, either.

May the light of public attention continue to shine on Ferguson and expose the oppressive practices into which it has apparently slipped, until those practices are eliminated. It's hard to tell whether these practices are racist or just the trend natural to power situations -- the city government having power over its citizens, regardless of race. Either way, the practices must be eliminated.

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