The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Texas A&M infielder Kaeden Kent (3) celebrates a home run during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Winning 9 to 5: A&M beats Tennessee in Game 1 of College World Series finals
Luke White, Sports Editor • June 23, 2024

While Texas A&M baseball had never appeared in the College World Series finals before Saturday, the Aggies played as if they were seasoned...

Texas A&M fans react after The Aggies win the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
The mad dash to Omaha
June 21, 2024
Enjoying the Destination
Enjoying the Destination
Cara Hudson, Maroon Life Writer • June 17, 2024

For the history buffs, there’s a story to why Bryan and College Station are so closely intertwined. In 1871 when the Texas Legislature approved...

Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin Chen June 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

Progressive punishment: Should fines be based on income?

Photo by Creative Commons
Police Ticket

In 2010, a Swedish man caught driving his Mercedes 170 kilometers per hour over the speed limit in Switzerland was fined 1,080,000 Swiss Francs (around $1,091,340). The Swiss, like many European countries, use a day fine system to punish offenders. The fine is calculated by dividing the offender’s daily income in half, then multiplying that amount by the number of days the offender must pay. The number of days needed to pay varies by the severity of the offense, so for a speeding ticket, the faster someone travels the longer they have to pay their day fine. According to the World Economic Forum, the Swede had to pay around 3,600 Swiss Francs for 300 days.
Progressive punishment, such as day taxes, uphold justice and create a system where crimes are punished equally for all income levels and ensure that the rich cannot pay for freedom, the poor do not receive unnecessary stress or jail time for a small offense and decreases prison populations.
Unsurprisingly, day fines have caused much outrage from extremely wealthy offenders. According to the New York Times, when Finnish businessman Reima Kuisla was issued a ticket for €54,024, he complained on Facebook that “Finland is now an impossible country to live in for people with a large income and wealth!” What he really meant was: ‘I want to move to a country where I can pay to commit crimes like other rich people.’ Well if that’s what Mr. Kuisla is looking for, he should come to the U.S.
America uses a fixed fine system, where there is a set fee for a certain speed over the limit. The average speeding ticket is usually around $200. To someone making $50,000 this fee would prompt them to slow down. For someone working minimum wage, it could make the difference between going to jail or paying for food. Yet for someone like Mr. Kuisla, $200 is merely pocket change.
Having fixed fines guarantees a flawed overall justice system since those who can afford to break laws have the upperhand. According to the Los Angeles Times, 60 percent of jails are filled with people awaiting trial, not even declared guilty, simply because they could not afford their bail. Even small crimes, like driving with an expired licence, can get you jail time if you can’t scrape together a few thousand dollars to be released. In contrast, the rich can get away with nearly any crime. In 2017, wealthy real estate heiress Tiffany Li, who was accused of murdering the father of her children, was able to pay her $35 million bail and remain in house arrest at her California mansion. At the same time, Joseph Warren suffered in jail awaiting trial for welfare fraud, a much smaller crime than murder, because he could not pay his bail.
Implementing a day fine system in the U.S. would not solve all of our criminal justice issues, but it would be a good first step towards having equitable punishments. The U.S. is currently the number one country in incarceration. Our prisons are overfilled, mostly with people whose only crime was being too poor. Germany, where day fines are used extensively, has one of the lowest prison population rates (people imprisoned per 100,000 people) in the world, as well as one of the lowest crime rates. The Germans use day fines for more than just minor offenses, including property crimes, fraud and drug offences, and it seems to be working. While the U.S. cannot make such a change immediately, transitioning to a day fine system for minor offenses and bail prices would make a significant impact by itself.
Some people complain that progressive punishments are unfair, but they fail to realize that when poor people are fined more than they can pay, they lose a lot more than money. The added stress and the possibility of losing their home, belongings and even their job is much worse of a punishment than the fine itself. To make matters worse, a Stanford Law Review article found that people awaiting trial in jail are more likely to commit crimes once released and more likely to plead guilty even if they are innocent. In contrast, Germany, which only sends about 10 percent of convicted criminals to jail, is experiencing its lowest crime rate in decades.
As fewer Americans favor harsh punishments like long prison sentences and death penalties, it’s a good time to consider day fines. Calculating tickets and bail based on income is not only much more fair, but also common sense. Why should the poor have to pay a higher percentage of what they make as a rich person for the same offense? Progressive punishment is the key to holding the wealthy accountable and reducing incarceration rates.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *