Local Criminal Justice Reform Efforts: Effects on Employment, Self-Sufficiency, and Family Well-Being

Project Description

More than 7 million people in the United States have had their driver’s license suspended because of failure to pay traffic citations or other court fees and fines. Without a valid driver’s license, many people lack legal transportation to get to their jobs or to attend to other family needs, which reduces an individual’s ability to pay fees at all and thereby creates a vicious cycle
that prevents self-sufficiency.

Durham County’s Department of Social Services (DSS), the local human services agency that administers TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), has acknowledged that transportation issues are a barrier to employment and self-sufficiency in our region. Most research in this area has focused on lack of car ownership. However, an unexamined but very salient transportation barrier is the lack of a valid driver’s license.

This project aims to learn more about the effect on low-income families of policies that help people with suspended licenses regain a valid license. In particular, how regaining a valid license can lead to improvements in employment and self-sufficiency, including reductions in reliance on TANF benefits.

Project Goals

This project will evaluate a local program in Durham, NC that waives the fees of those who have a suspended license due to failure to pay in order to discover how reinstating drivers’ licenses can reduce barriers to employment and self-sufficiency.

The study has two broad aims:

  1. Investigate how drivers’ license reinstatement affects individuals’ employment and self-sufficiency, using administrative data for the full population eligible for the program
  2. Examine additional benefits of drivers’ license reinstatement on family functioning and child well-being for a subsample of adults with dependent children

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