John Oliver Points Out The Unethical Business Of Municipal Fines On ‘Last Week Tonight’

News & Culture Writer
03.23.15 29 Comments

One thing Last Week Tonight does so great is take what appears to be a mundane, or not the most “flashy” political issue and turn it on its head to point out some serious discrepancies in our society, such as the excellent segment about our crumbling infrastructure a few weeks ago. On Sunday night, John Oliver tackled traffic fines and other municipal violations, which is something most of us don’t think a whole lot about. You get a ticket, you pay it. Right?

Well, what if you can’t afford to pay that ticket? As John Oliver demonstrates, the system is set up to penalize the poor in our country, and how not paying, say, a $41 seat belt ticket can result in a sick, endless cycle of fees and fines through government-approved collections agencies which makes it nearly impossible for those making minimum wage to climb out of debt. Or even worse, resulting in jail time.

As he said: “Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in — and I’m going to use a legal term of art, here — the f*ck barrel.” Consider us on board with shutting down the f*ck barrel.

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