18 February 2020

Shifrah Blustein: “You get a speeding fine and, although you’re annoyed (at yourself and, probably, at ‘the system’), you pay it and the problem disappears. But think about what happens if you can’t pay.  … We know that some people try to pay their fines and, as a consequence, have to forgo life essentials; or, if they can’t pay, are subjected to stress, court, and ever more punitive and all-encompassing systems of control. Remember that this is only happening to people already living in poverty. This system, then, begins to look a lot like a means to control the life horizons of people who are already seriously marginalised. … The theoretical implications of fines are different if you are imagining a system where they in fact get paid, as opposed to one that is deliberately set up so that fines are unpayable by some segments of the population (indeed, those most likely to accrue them), and which then exacerbate a life of chaos, surveillance and distress. This is even more the case where the alternatives to paying a fine include court appearances, justice system entrenchment, restriction of rights to vehicular access, a criminal record, and possible imprisonment.”