FLOYD INGRAM: Paying a debt to society

MUG Floyd Ingram LITTLEI remember the very first traffic ticket it ever got. It was for running a stop sign in West Point one summer day in the mid ’70s. The citation basically said pay $37.50 or show up in court and plead your case.
I told my father about it when he got home from work that afternoon.
He immediately got up from his chair and told me to come on, we were going to take care of this!
My father was a very measured man and rarely got excited. But this was great! Here was my champion going out to right a wrong to his flesh and blood.
We walked up to the window and my daddy flipped the ticket on the counter.
“I need to talk to someone about taking care of this,” he said and pulled out his checkbook.
He wrote out a check for $37.50 and handed it to the clerk.
“This is how you take care of these things,” he said glancing at me. “Oh, by the way, this is the last one I am ever paying for you.”

Pay what you owe

Most of us have probably “run afoul of the law” and been given a citation that we were required to pay or hauled into court and justice served with a more hefty fee and fine.
The good folks of this world, admit their blunder, promise the judge they will be more careful and pay their fine.
But there are some people in Chickasaw County who admit their infraction, promise the judge anything and then pay the court nothing.
That is not right and that is not justice.
I was glad to see Chickasaw County Justice Court Judges start notifying people who owe a fine they need to pay up or they could face additional charges and additional fees and fines.
Judge Garry Turner said Chickasaw County – that’s you and me – are owed thousands and thousands of dollars in unpaid fines.
Houlka did something like this in the fall.
Houlka is owed about $20,000 in unpaid fees and fines. That is a tidy sum for a town their size.
If all those fine were paid, Houlka could look at building a football field for the Wildcats, do needed repairs at the Community Center, hire a dog catcher and probably find a pothole or two that needs patching.
Deep pockets solve a lot of this world’s problems.

Political backbone

It’s not easy for political leaders to do something like this.
Everyone who is hauled back before the court to pay an unpaid ticket will probably not vote for that judge – and constable – in a year or two.
But those of us who pay our bills, pay our fines and who pay our way understand how this thing is supposed to work.
I want to urge the towns of Houston, Okolona and Woodland to look at their list of unpaid fines. They might be very surprised at the dollars that are out there.
It should be pointed out police are not writing more tickets to generate revenue. These fines are being collected from people who have already been convicted, sentenced and fined by the court.
Yes, this will need to be a concerted effort.
Aldermen and supervisors need to put someone in charge of figuring out how much is owed and who owes it. City and county leaders need to urge city and county judges to issue bench warrants for those who won’t pay. Law enforcement will need to serve those warrants and haul the offender back into court.
I hope smart people will just pay the debt they owe society.
I hope that revenue generated by this effort will be used to make our county and community a better place to live.
And I hope it will teach folks around here what I learned a long time ago.
Do a crime. Pay a fine.

Floyd Ingram is Managing Editor/News for the Chickasaw Journal. He can be contacted at 456-3771 or by email at floyd.ingram@journalinc.com.

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