News Stories

June 19, 2017

By Larry Buhl

The California Legislature is considering a proposal to link the cost of a traffic ticket to a person’s ability to pay. Supporters say if it becomes law, it will keep minor traffic violations from pushing low-income California drivers deep into debt. And, it could help the state recoup tens of millions of dollars in delinquent fines that people just can’t afford to pay.

June 12, 2017

By Paul Payne

It all started with a drunken-driving arrest. Then there was the ticket for getting behind the wheel with a suspended license.

Soon, Tyler Watson of Sebastopol had unpaid fines totaling thousands of dollars — and no hope of ever getting his license back.

So this week, Watson, 38, walked into Sonoma County traffic court asking for help. The judge offered him a payment plan but warned he must stay off the road until his debt is settled.

May 23, 2017

By Marisa Lagos and Sukey Lewis

Every year in California, nearly 1 million people are arrested and booked into jail.

Their freedom before they go to trial often hinges on a century-old money bail system that critics say favors the rich: If you can pay, you’re free — and if you can’t, you’re stuck behind bars.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says jails have become a dumping ground for the poor

May 22, 2017

There's a pizzeria in Chicago that prides itself on authentic ingredients. The flour for the dough comes from Italy. The pomodoro and fresh mozzarella? Also from Italy. The olive oil drizzled on top? Straight from Tuscany. Then the pies get cooked in a brick oven that's white with green mosaic tiles, which spell out "recipe for a change."

After all, that's exactly what the cooking program at Cook County Jail aspires to be.

Sen. Hertzberg's SB 185 would make California the first state to assess traffic fines by income level

May 15, 2017

Today’s introduction comes from Thomas Fuller, our San Francisco bureau chief.

A bill in the State Legislature would make California the first state to assess traffic fines by income level: The poorer you are, the less you would pay.

The sponsor of the bill, State Senator Robert M. Hertzberg, says California’s traffic fines are “ridiculously high” and unaffordable for low-income families. Many fines don’t get paid.

“It’s like trying to get blood out of a turnip,” Mr. Hertzberg, a Democrat, said. “It doesn’t work.”

The cash-bail industry systematically violates the constitutional rights of America’s most vulnerable citizens

May 5, 2017

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Maranda Lynn ODonnell, a 22-year-old single mother in Harris County, Tex., was arrested last year for driving without a valid license. The judge set her bail at $2,500. She couldn’t afford anything close to that, so she spent three days in jail — even though she posed no risk of skipping town or endangering anyone if she were released.

April 22, 2017

BY DENNIS ROMERO

You subscribe to a magazine or join a gym for a special rate and months later realize you're paying a lot more for renewals. And those fees keep hitting your bank account while you try to figure out how to make it stop.

"This is the kind of classic, everyday scam that drives people nuts because we've all had this experience," says Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California.

April 11, 2017

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — A bill moving through California’s legislature takes aim at a practice often called “food shaming,” when school children are treated differently when their parents or guardians fail to pay meal fees.

April 10, 2017

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD

On any given day in California, tens of thousands of people sit in county jail not because of a criminal conviction, but because they can’t afford to leave.

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