Illinois Justice Project

Question Seven

Criminal Debt and the Traffic Code

Numerous recent studies and media stories have identified perceived unfair administrative and policing practices that have taken money out of Black and Brown neighborhoods.

  • A Chicago Tribune story uncovered a massive discrepancy between the number of bike citations written in majority Black communities compared to majority white ones.

  • A WBEZ story highlighted that increased ticketing for city vehicle stickers disproportionally forced Black residents into debt and the criminal justice system.

  • A Chicago Sun-Times piece found that despite de-criminalization of small amounts of marijuana, Black Chicagoans account for the vast majority of arrests and tickets for its possession.

  • Twitter users discovered and publicized a joint Norfolk Southern and Chicago Police Department strategy of placing bait-trucks filled with new shoes in poor, Black neighborhoods with the intent of arresting those who went into the bait trucks.

The response from city officials has been that these policies, which may have a discriminatory racial impact, are linked to attempts to keep majority Black communities – torn apart by violence – safer and raise revenue for the city, which is in need of financial assistance.

Lightfoot

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Do you believe these goals justify the disparate impact outlined above or do you believe that the city needs to re-examine policies and practices like the ones above which some advocates argue exacerbate poor relations with the city and law enforcement to ensure communities of color are not victimized?

No, I do not believe these goals justify the disparate impact on communities of color.

If you are against these policies, how would you ensure that they are not implemented? Are there principles that you would adopt that would serve the goal of avoiding policies like these? If you support these policies as a necessary step to protect communities, how would you justify their disparate impact to members of communities of color that feel victimized by them?

Leadership begins at the top. As mayor, I will ensure that CPD engages in constitutional policing and does not engage in discriminatory practices like those outlined above, and that the city conducts a thorough audit of ticketing practices.

The City of Chicago requests that the Secretary of State suspend thousands of licenses a year for purely financial obligations that stem from non-moving violations. Taking licenses away from anyone, but especially low-income individuals inhibits their ability to work (and pay off fines), care for their young and elderly, and could drive them into the criminal justice system. Should these requests end?

Yes. Additionally, I support adopting standards to ensure that payment plans are affordable and accessible for Chicago’s most vulnerable drivers. The consequences of losing one’s license or being forced into bankruptcy based on an inability to pay fines and fees can be devastating and can significantly and adversely impact one’s quality of life and ability to seek employment.

 It is unacceptable that our ticketing system is having such a devastating impact on low-income people and people of color. To identify and address racial disparities, I will direct that an audit be conducted into potential bias in ticketing. Additionally, right now people who owe money to the city aren't allowed to work for the city or as taxi or ride-hail drivers. I would end this policy for people whose outstanding payments are below a certain threshold, and would seek to stop the suspension of drivers’ licenses for non-moving violations.


Do you believe these goals justify the disparate impact outlined above or do you believe that the city needs to re-examine policies and practices like the ones above which some advocates argue exacerbate poor relations with the city and law enforcement to ensure communities of color are not victimized?

 It is ridiculous to argue that increased levels of ticketing for expired city vehicle stickers helps keep poor neighborhoods safer by raising revenue for the city.  In my nearly thirty years as a public servant, I have long advocated against policies and practices like these that have a discriminatory racial impact and I would continue to do so if elected Mayor.

Over the years, I have worked at the County level to ensure that the policies that we implement do not negatively impact marginalized communities. For example, within the corrections system, I reduced the surcharges the County received from phone calls of detainees to their loved ones, I also have worked with stakeholders and the Clerk’s Office to review and reduce fines and fees for those involved in the criminal justice system, regardless of whether it would negatively impact the County Budget. As Mayor, I would eliminate these discriminatory practices, no revenue should be generated solely off the backs of those who are least able to afford it. Neighborhoods become safer as residents have more income to meet their basic needs.  Bait trucks, like the bait cars used to ensnare young people, are indefensible. 

Preckwinkle

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