clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Small towns like Ferguson rely on fines for their budgets. Here's what that looks like.

Small towns like Ferguson, Missouri, are notoriously reliant on traffic tickets for local budget revenue. A report from ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit that provides legal representation to the poor and homeless in the St. Louis area, found the Ferguson Municipal Court resolved three warrants and 1.5 cases per household in 2013. Revenue from fines and court fees made up about 10 percent of Ferguson's 2013 budget.

These cases disproportionately impact local black residents. A racial profiling report from Missouri's attorney general found that, although black people make up about 67 percent of Ferguson's population, they're involved in about 86 percent of police stops.

Nearby Jennings, Missouri, is no different. The Huffington Post's Emily Kassie and Ryan Reilly described the everyday spectacle of the town's small courtroom Tuesday night, showing both the huge racial disparities and the lengths people have to go through just to pay a small fine.

Further reading

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.