Driven Into Debt

Mon. Mar 4, 2019 at 6:00pm CST
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Event Description

Parking meters. City stickers. Winter parking bans. They are among the many bright-orange vehicle tickets issued to Chicago motorists that generate millions of dollars in desperately needed cash each year for the City of Chicago. But ticket enforcement is not created equal.

Paying for tickets can be difficult, opening the door to more fees, spiraling debt, and tough punishments from the city and state – often leading to license suspensions, job restrictions and bankruptcy. In the reporting series “Driven into Debt,” Melissa Sanchez (ProPublica Illinois) and Elliott Ramos (WBEZ) demonstrate how the working poor, and particularly African American motorists and neighborhoods, bear the heaviest brunt of ticket fines and penalties.

Join ProPublica Illinois, WBEZ and UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy to learn more about the reporting and research on this issue, and participate in a Q&A forum. Melissa and Elliott will be joined by experts on monetary punishment including Mary Pattillo (Northwestern), Stacey Sutton (UIC) and Kasey Hendricks (Tennessee) for this timely discussion.

Doors open at 5:30pm and refreshments will be served. This event will be live streamed.  Individuals in attendance and comments from the audience may be filmed and if you are uncomfortable with live streaming, you may not want to attend.The event space is wheelchair accessible. Persons with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or have questions about access are asked to email in advance of the event.


Elliott Ramos is the Digital Editor at WBEZ. Elliott is the editor responsible for WBEZ’s data reporting, specializing in data visualizations, maps, and analysis, to supplement the station’s enterprise reporting. Elliott was a mobile editor for the Wall Street Journal’s app, and also a web editor on its News Hub. He was a senior Web editor for the New York Daily News, and interned at the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago RedEye and WBBM CBS2.

Melissa Sanchez is a reporter at ProPublica Illinois, where she’s covered parking ticket debt and immigrant child detentions. She has lived in Chicago since 2014, writing primarily about education for the nonprofit magazine Catalyst Chicago and later its sister publication, The Chicago Reporter. Her stories there looked at the extraordinary costs of allowing private investors to finance public preschool programs, access to higher education for undocumented students and lax enforcement of city and state labor laws, among other issues. Before coming to Chicago, she reported en español for el Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language sister paper.

Mary Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University. Her pathbreaking work uses Chicago as a laboratory to explore the entanglements of racial, ethnic, and class inequities as these intersect with urban space and gentrification, the criminal justice system, youth socialization, and economic politics and policy. Dr. Pattillo has received numerous awards and received her Doctorate in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

Stacey Sutton is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research focuses on worker cooperatives, economic democracy, equitable development, and racially disparate effects of place-based policy and planning. A current body of research is on "Punitive Cities" and includes examining the impact of red light and speeding camera tickets on drivers across Chicago. Dr. Sutton holds a joint Doctorate in Urban Planning and Sociology from Rutgers University. 

Kasey Henricks is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He studies how racial inequalities are reproduced over time through institutional arrangements sponsored by public finance. Along with David G. Embrick, Dr. Henricks wrote State Looteries: Historical Continuities, Rearticulations of Racism, and American Taxation. Dr. Henricks received his Doctorate in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago.


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John Marshall Law School 304 S State Street
Chicago, IL 60604