Fees from traffic tickets and other minor offenses are often a major source of revenue for many communities. But what happens when you can’t afford to pay even a small penalty?
In some cases, you don’t work off the fine with community service. Instead, you could find yourself trapped inside what John Oliver calls “the fuck barrel.”
On Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took a look at how people of limited means can end up with a snowballing amount of debt due to fines, court costs, penalties and even fees charged by private for-profit companies that have taken over probation in some communities.
Eventually, the poorest people lose everything — some even wind up in jail — over what started out as a very small, but for them unaffordable, fine for a minor offense.
That’s the fuck barrel.
“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 fuck barrel,” Oliver said. “We can’t have that. And it might be time that we all stood up and said so.”
Check out the clip above to learn more and to see the stirring ad Oliver’s team created to push the effort to #ShutDownTheFuckBarrel.