Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Alexes Harris Comments on Criminalization of Poverty for The Appeal’s Political Report

Posted: 4/27/2020 (CSDE in the News)

Virginia, among other states, is considering criminal justice reforms amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these reforms concerns the practice of suspending driver’s licenses over court debt. Therefore, CSDE Affiliate Alexes Harris provided her expertise on the effects of such reforms and the criminalization of poverty in a recent article for The Appeal’s Political Report. Harris explains how “if someone is unemployed, or underemployed, unsheltered, or has a family, regularly paying fines and fees, much less paying them off, is extremely difficult.” Further, adding the burden of a driver’s license suspension can exacerbate the consequences of constant debt collection.

The brewing economic crisis from the Covid-19 pandemic is making court debt collection practices especially difficult for individuals with multiple financial obligations. Therefore, Harris called on public authorities to “immediately stop sentencing fines and fees and collecting fines and fees, no interest or added collection fees or late penalties should be added to what they already owe…People should be allowed to use whatever income they have to feed their families and provide shelter.”

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