We have criminalized the failure to pay civil infraction tickets, such as parking or speeding or driving with a busted tail light. How? We suspend driver’s licenses for these folks, and then we charge them with the misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license. As I have previously blogged, this pattern is a major funnel by which African Americans are caught up in the criminal justice system.
Why? Try driving with a busted tail light in a suburb of Detroit while Black. African Americans are routinely pulled over at significantly higher rates than whites for minor speeding or busted tail lights. This is simply true. Study after study confirms it and task forces and speeches have not changed this reality.
How do we change this pipeline?
(1) make driving in a suspended license as a civil infraction even for a repeat offense;
(2) pay incentive bonuses to police shift commanders when their officers do not issue citations to African Americans out of proportion to their representation of the local population in the jurisdiction.