"In our own work in medicine and finance, we have seen how small sums can impede the wealth accumulation necessary for upwards social and economic mobility."
NPR covered the story of a young man in Detroit who, having been wrongly convicted of murder at the age of 14, had spent nearly nine years in prison until his conviction was overturned. $2500 of unpaid court fines and the cost of a public defender nearly kept this young man behind bars. The kindness of an anonymous donor allowed him to reconnect with his family and freedom. Similar stories demonstrate how fees and fines disproportionately affect the poor; small ticket fines lead to drivers’ license suspensions and a cycle of debt and a recent study of juvenile cases in Pittsburgh demonstrated that unrealistic fines and fees contribute to recidivism.
In a New York Times article, Erik Eckholm states - “Fines, fees and restitution mandates are levied on juvenile offenders to varying degrees in every state, a new national survey of these practices has found. The effects are greatest on the poor and racial minorities, creating a two-tiered system of justice, according to the report, published by the Juvenile Law Center, a legal aid and advocacy group in Philadelphia.”
In our own work in medicine and finance, we have seen how small sums can impede the wealth accumulation necessary for upwards social and economic mobility. We’ve seen families borrow at unforgiving rates to bridge paychecks and find themselves in a cycle of ever-increasing debt, collection agency harassment, and the inability to build sufficient credit to rent an apartment. We’ve witnessed patients’ inability to access preventative care services due to cost and time constraints, which leads to avoidable sickness, hospital admissions, and jeopardized employment.
The realization that small sums can generate high impact has compelled us to find a way to connect individuals with the means to address their needs.