Traffic ticket may snowball into jail time due to homelessness and a miscarriage
A Detroit woman in the midst of a high risk pregnancy will find out today if she will have to go to jail because of missed court dates following a traffic ticket. Shyanna Wilson was cited for improper license plates in 2017 but failed to appear because of a housing crisis. A warrant was issue and she was later arrested but missed a second court date when she suffered a miscarriage. Since then, she has had perfect attendance for the proceedings.
However, 38th District Court Judge Carl Gerds may have already run out of patience. At her last appearance, Judge Gerds indicated he might wave her fines but sentence her to jail time instead. While Wilson is several hundred dollars short of paying her fines, the bigger problem is the risk incarceration would pose to an already complicated pregnancy. “I have a check-up every other week and as my January due date approaches, that will move up to every week.” Wilson said in a statement Thursday. “If I go to jail, I don’t know what kind of care I will be able to get for me and my child. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
This is not the first time Judge Gerds has drawn fire for his heavy handed treatment of poor people who have appeared before him. In 2016, the ACLU won a suit against Judge Gerds for his “pay or stay” sentencing and the Macomb County Circuit court ordered him to stop the practice. Wilson’s attorney, Kevin Callahan warns that her case has as much to do with her failure to appear as it does with the fines but hopes the ruling will still encourage Judge Gerds to show mercy and discretion.
Wilson hopes to avoid the fate of Siwatu-Salaman Ra, a Detroit activist who was jailed last year under questionable circumstances and forced to give birth behind bars. Ra’s mother, Motisila said, “This system is deplorable. It is one of the most brutal and cruel systems that exists for women that are expecting.” Motisila said her daughter was chained to the bed during pelvic exams. “We’ve got to do better than this. We’ve got to bring some humanity to the whole criminal justice system.”
Wilson is limited in ability to work because of her condition. Besides court costs, she also hopes to repay those who helped bail her out of jail while still providing for her family. She has set up a donation page on Facebook for those who would like to help her meet her obligations.