TJ has recognized that many minor criminal violations can be driven by the pressures of poverty. One example is the competition between the need to care for a child or travel to a job to put food on the table and legal injunctions limiting people’s driving privileges which are often handed down for non-violent offenses. The reality in Vermont is that the ability to drive a car is often a critical necessity in the fight for survival. In light of this economic reality, TJ led an effort to restore people’s driving privileges by addressing the barrier of people’s inability to pay outstanding fines. On March 20, 2015 over 1200 Vermonters appeared at the Chittenden Superior Court in an effort to comply with the law and restore their driving privileges by paying back their outstanding debts, at an affordable rate.
This “smart-on-crime” approach allowed Vermonters to commute to their jobs and to resolve their issues by escaping the continuing spiral of violations and fines they had no reasonable prospect of paying. This effort affected five counties across Vermont and was replicated in Windsor County. As a result of these successes, the Vermont legislature is currently considering legislation to reform the suspended license system in Vermont by adopting a program similar to TJ’s Driver Restoration Day.