Selected Mentions of Paper Prisons in the News

The Financial Impact of Suspended Licenses in Kansas (Jan. 10, 2024)

Kansas is considering legislation to end debt-driven driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees and court costs. It is estimated that over 127,000 Kansas drivers licenses are currently suspended due to failure to appear in traffic court due to unpaid fines, fees, and court costs. These suspensions are often an extension of the debt collection process for traffic tickets.

Suspended licenses are associated with loss of employment opportunities, loss of productivity, and compounded financial loss because driving is essential to daily needs, i.e., obtaining medical care, and accessing the workplace, including commuting to work and earning one’s living. As the Supreme Court commented on suspended licenses in Bell v. Burson, “[o]nce licenses are issued . . . their continued possession may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood…” Thus, debt-based driver’s license holds perpetuate socioeconomic disparities and financial hardship.

The Paper Prisons Initiative, drawing upon Chien, Colleen, et al. Estimating the Earning Loss Associated with a Criminal Record and Suspended Driver’s License. Ariz. L. Rev. 64: 675 (2022), estimates that the per person annual earnings impact is estimated to be $12,700. A mechanical calculation would suggest an aggregate annual earnings loss of $1.61 Billion to the state. More details available here.

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