Kyle Dewitt, Ionia, Mich.
- Offense: Caught a fish out of season.
- Punishment: Three days in jail.
- About this case: Then 19, Dewitt had just lost his job; he says he couldn’t afford the original $155 fine. The court offered him payment plans, but he says he never received the letter.
- Court debt: More than $215.
A yearlong NPR investigation found that the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders. Here are just some of the people we found as part of this story.
This gets at something I want to discuss when we talk about this summer’s Nerdfighter Book Club pick, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Throughout the book, characters talk about how on some level it feels as if being poor itself is illegal, and how a single transgression (or perceived transgression) can be absolutely catastrophic for someone living in poverty.
A speeding ticket, for instance, that would be a minor inconvenience to me, could result in someone else eventually losing their license and then their ability to get to work and then their livelihood. So it’s not really fair to say that we are all treated the same under the law, because the law functions very differently for Kyle (or for Abdul in Behind the Beautiful Forevers) than it functions for people who aren’t poor.