My main office is the Waffle House (WH) on Hughes Road in Madison. This morning I was at my Satellite WH office in Huntsville. As you know from my previous blog posts my family and I were gone on our trip to Europe for 18 days. So it has been over 3 weeks since I have visited my Satellite office. One of the waitresses who works the morning shift was not there so I asked about her. I found out she was in jail and when I found out why it infuriated me.
I will call her Sandy, though that is not her real name. Around 6 months ago Sandy got pulled over for speeding and the officer gave her a speeding ticket. She went on line to see about paying the ticket and the fine was $179. Sandy did not have the money. Sandy is in her late 20’s and is a single-mom of two young children. Working at the WH she makes approximately $400 a week plus or minus. She pays around $150.00 a week in child-care for her kids. That leaves her $250 a week/ $1,000 a month to live on. Take out her rent and utilities that leaves her $100.00 a week for her and her two young children to eat and live on so $179 Is almost 2 weeks of living expenses.
Since she did not have the money for the fine, she did not pay it on line, and out of fear of what might happen, she did go to court. After missing a couple court dates, her driver’s license was suspended. She knew this from letters she received, but she had to get to work, kids to day care, and survive, so she drove with a suspended license. Monday July 17th Sandy got pulled over again for an expired tag. Not having a valid drivers license meant she could not renew her tag for her license plate. When they ran her license they saw it was suspended so they took her to jail. Sandy had to pay $370 fine or they were going to keep her in jail. She did not have the money. She has one family member in town and they are an addict, and no friends with money to help her, so to pay the fine off she had to do 30 days in jail.
Because she is in jail and could not take care of her Kids, DHR was called in and took her children into foster care. Her car, a 2002 Chevy Impala was towed to an impound lot where it now sits. From what I was told she has a real slum landlord. And though it was not legal, this past Saturday, since she had not paid her rent that was do the first, he took all of her things out of her apartment and put them in the parking lot by the street where people took them. Another waitress at WH who lives near her heard about it and went down and managed to save a few of her things for her.
Sandy’s 30 days is up at midnight tonight and she will get out of jail. However when she does, she will have no place to live. She will most likely go to the Downtown Rescue Mission. All her cloths and children’s cloths and belongings except what her one friends was able to save for her are gone. With the fee for towing her car plus a daily storage fee, it will cost her around $400+ to get her car out of the impound lot that she does not have, so she will probably lose her car. She then will have to deal with DHR to try to get her children back.
Now, I understand there needs to be laws and fines for speeding tickets. And I understand Sandy broke the law and should have gone to court. However, a speeding ticket is not supposed to ruin your life!!! If most of us, including myself got a speeding ticket it would not be good. $179 is allot of money to me since I raise my own support. And at least in my case I would hear it from my wife over and over again, but we would manage to pay the ticket. However, $179 is not two weeks living expenses to me. THE ONLY REASON SANDY WENT TO JAIL IS BECAUSE SHE IS POOR! If I had to come up with $370 or go to jail for 30 days I would find a way to come up with it. If I did not have it I have family or friends I could borrow it from. Sandy went to jail because she was poor and did not have the money, support of a family, and has poor friends like her who are themselves are barely living paycheck to paycheck like her.
Should Sandy not have been speeding, Yes. Should she have gone to court, probably so. But the fact that you are poor and do not have $179 dollars to pay a traffic ticket should not result in jail, losing everything you have, losing your children, and ending up homeless in a shelter. That ticket ended up being a literal ticket to hell for her. Now you know why I was infuriated. I sat there at the bar in my office listening to the waitresses telling me this, and though I have heard and helped people with similar stories before, I was getting worked up, mad and upset at this injustice. The waitress telling me this spoke matter of fact to me, as this injustice and system that adversely and in-proportionately impacts the poor was just the reality she also lives in. At least the WH Sandy works at said she still has her job when she gets out. I will come to the WH Wednesday or Thursday morning when she starts back to work and listen, love, and talk with her to get clarity on her situation, plans, and needs.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
My ODC family, Jesus had a special love for the poor. They were his crowd of choice. I pray today that your hearts may break for the poor and that the Holy Spirit will guide you into ways of interacting and sharing life together. They have so much to teach us. Please pray the same for me.
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