Washtenaw United: 'Road to Restoration' clinic in Ypsilanti aims to help combat cycle of poverty
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
ABOUT KHYLA CRAINE:
Attorney Khyla D. Craine serves as the Deputy Legal Director for the Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson. In this role, Ms. Craine provides legal guidance to the Secretary while tackling a variety of issues in the Department from risk mitigation, data integrity, and the implementation of the State's new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and voting laws.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan native is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and South Carolina State University. Ms. Craine served as the 2016-2017 Chair of the National Bar Association’s (NBA) Young Lawyers Division (YLD). Through her leadership, the YLD was named Division of the Year by the President of the NBA.
A frequent speaker across the country, Ms. Craine has presented for the Federal Bar Association, National Bar Association, NAACP, Fried Frank LLP, among others. In 2014, Ms. Craine co-authored an article entitled Returning Citizens: How Shifting Law and Policy in Maryland Will Help Citizens Who Return from Incarceration in the University of Baltimore Law School’s Law Forum. She has also written op-eds and columns for The Root Magazine.
For her work, she has received numerous awards, including the 2019 National Bar Association Equal Justice Honoree and President's Award Recipient; 2016 National Bar Association Top 40 under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates Award; 2016 Young Alumni of the Year, Washington, D.C. Chapter, South Carolina State National Alumni Association; 2015 NAACP Youth and College Division Director’s Award; and 2014 National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Chair’s Award. Her work in service to the community continues through membership in the National Bar Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she serves on the National Social Action Commission.
United Way of Washtenaw County is supporting this activity through connecting the 2-1-1 help line to the Road to Restoration to provide the ability for folks to call 2-1-1 and register for this upcoming event. We understand that some folks do not have access to internet or the technology to register online and we are thankful for our partners at 2-1-1 for creating this option for registration
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'd like to welcome you to another Monday edition of Washtenaw United. This is our weekly exploration of issues of equity and opportunity in our community. I'm David Fair, and today, we're going to look at an opportunity for those without a driver's license to get back on the road. For those with lower incomes, a few traffic violations can mean fines and fees that are simply unaffordable. Not paying results in the suspension of a driver's license, which can then impact employment or job opportunities. For some, it seems like a never-ending cycle. Breaking that cycle is the idea behind the Michigan Secretary of State's Clean Slate program. Its Road to Restoration clinic is coming to Ypsilanti on May 10th, but here to talk about it today is Khyla Craine, and Khyla serves as deputy legal director for the Michigan Department of State. Thank you so much for making time today.
Khyla Craine: Thank you so much for having us, David. Glad to be with you.
David Fair: How significant is loss of driver's licenses in Michigan?
Khyla Craine: Oh, it's very significant, David. As you know, we are a driving state, and so, for folks to be able to get to work, to pick up their kids, to go to extracurricular activities, or just hang out in Gallup Park, you typically need a car to get there quickly in case any issues come up. So, it's really critical for people to be able to have a driver's license if they would like to and they're eligible under the law. So, some of the fines and fees that our residents are saddled with and prevent them from getting a license is really crucial for those folks.
David Fair: We know that this is an issue in Washtenaw County that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. I assume that's true throughout the rest of the state as well.
Khyla Craine: It unfortunately is, David.
David Fair: Was it specifically the impacts on people of color that launched the work to bring the Clean Slate to Drive laws to reality?
Khyla Craine: No, but it is definitely a part of the impetus for me and for our team to be able to bring it to life. But, no, we want to make sure that all Michiganders were able to understand what their driving record looks like now that the state Legislature passed the Clean Slate to Drive bills last year, 2020. And so, we just wanted to make sure that everybody understood what their particular role is to restoring their driver's license. But, as we do know, just like with many other criminal issues, it does disproportionately impact our residents of color, Black and Brown residents. And so, we wanted to make sure that, of course, everybody knows, but certainly reaching out to those communities to make sure that they're aware of these clinics and are able to attend.
David Fair: Washtenaw United continues on 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with Michigan Department of State Deputy Legal Director Khyla Craine. Khyla who's eligible to undertake the license restoration process?
Khyla Craine: So, anybody is eligible to take part of the process. We are emphasizing those 300,000 Michiganders that were impacted by the Clean Slate to drive laws. But should you have not received a letter from the Department of State that you were impacted by the law but still have a suspended or otherwise compromised driver's license, or just don't know your status, you're more than welcome to come and visit us at Brown Chapel on May the 10th and speak to a volunteer attorney or a member of our Michigan Department of State staff to see what your road to restoring a driver's license may be.
David Fair: Now, for those who don't have a license, whether it be suspended or something otherwise, what offenses would render them ineligible to get restored?
Khyla Craine: Well, of course, if you are driving on the roads without a driver's license and are stopped in arrested or pulled over by the police, that can prevent you for two years to be even eligible to get your driver's license. And it just kind of spirals from there. So, any other type of driving related offenses, parking ticket offenses, may subject you to be unable to get your license. So, it is crucial that if you are trying to drive on Michigan roads, you definitely need to have a license-- a valid license. In addition, if you're driving on the road but you don't have proof of insurance, that is also that can also compromise your ability to have a valid driver's license.
David Fair: And I would assume if you were convicted of a drunken driving or driving under the influence of drugs offense, that would render you ineligible as well.
Khyla Craine: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately, it makes you ineligible to drive right now. However, we do have Michigan Department of State staff that can let you know what your road is to restoring your license. The DUI and DWI--driving under the influence--are not a part of the Clean Slate laws. However, we can still let you know what your road is, whether it is coming to our hearing or other means to be able to get your license back.
David Fair: Now, again, this is designed to help those who have run into trouble paying fines, fees, traffic violations and the like that has potentially costing their license. To participate and learn this road to restoration, is there any cost involved?
Khyla Craine: So, there's no cost for them to attend and for folks who may walk in, which means that they do not pre-register. They did not schedule an appointment with us. Then, there may be a cause for them to get their driving record, which is $12 once they come to Brown Chapel. But, other than that, there is no cost to attend and to speak with one of our attorneys or staff.
David Fair: The Road to Restoration clinics are going to be conducted throughout the state locally. It comes to Ypsilanti May 10th from nine a.m. to five p.m. at Brown Chapel AME Church on West Michigan Avenue. Again, so walk-in is available, but can people pre-register?
Khyla Craine: They sure can. They can contact--well, first of all, they need to register online at Michigan dot gov slash SOS clean slate, or if they don't have access to the internet, they can call 2-1-1 at our friends at the United Way of Washtenaw County, and they will be able to get them registered.
David Fair: Once again, this is 89 one WEMU, and our Washtenaw United conversation continues with Khyla Craine from the Michigan Department of State. And, Khyla, in implementing these Clean Slate to Drive laws, you mentioned that there are potentially 300,000 or so Michigan residents that might be able to find their road to restoration. Has a target been set for how many people this program can help?
Khyla Craine: We can hope for pretty much around--as far as going over to the clinics in this round--around seven or eight hundred, so we're estimating that we can help about 100 people or so per place. We were recently in Detroit for the Clean Slate clinic. We were able to see 97 members of the public there, which was a great turnout for us, but we potentially could have seen more. So, it really just depends on the location that we're going to that day and the amount of volunteers that we have. That's why it's so crucial for folks to sign up and get scheduled, so that we're able to have enough volunteer attorneys and volunteer staff there ready to help.
David Fair: You had touched on the broader sense of the impacts of this in the state of Michigan. What role do you anticipate this playing in the broader sense of trying to better address racial and income inequities and inequalities?
Khyla Craine: Well, we know that this really impacts racial minorities, as well as folks who are have lesser economic means, because if they were able to pay their fines and fees, they would have done it already, right? And so, the buildup of the fines and fees leads--used to lead--to getting your license suspended. And so, it really just compounds the more violations that you could accumulate, the longer suspension and the more difficulty it would be for people to get their driver's license back. And this does really have an impact upon our Black and Brown citizens for a number of reasons. But, including our returning citizens community, we know that Black and Brown people in our state and across the country are disproportionately incarcerated. And so, once they are returning from incarceration, they still need to get their driver's license restored. And so, there may be difficulty with that because they are trying to get back on their feet and trying to accumulate and get a job and be able to afford to pay down their fines. So, it really is almost like a hamster wheel, David, that you are trying to pay a fine, but you can't get to work because you don't have a license. And sometimes, you still drive, unfortunately, because you have to get to work. And so, it's just it's just a cycle of poverty that we are desperately trying to put an end to. And so, this clinic cycle that we're doing is trying to help folks be able to get on the road safely in accordance with the law.
David Fair: There are a lot of folks throughout the state--some in this area--who have not had necessarily positive interactions with the courts and with the state. What would you say to someone who is hesitant or apprehensive about further involving these entities in their lives by going to the clinic?
Khyla Craine: That's one of the reasons why we're really partnering with community-oriented entities when we go to these clinics and events. And so, I'm really proud to work with Brown Chapel AME, and Pastor Phillips over there at Brown Chapel have been gracious enough to open their doors to us. And that's what we go to, where the community feels safe. All of our clinics are housed at community-oriented locations for that very reason. So, it makes a safe environment. And then our staff are people who are willing to help everybody that we see. And our volunteer attorneys are eager to meet with folks and are really comforting and welcoming. Every place that we gone thus far, all of the residents have been happy and content with meeting our folks, even if they are not being able to restore that license just on that day. The fact that they're able to get more information about what their role is and have seen friendly faces from the time that they checked in to the time they walk out has been comforting for the residents.
David Fair: Thank you so much for the time and sharing the information today, Khyla. I really appreciate it.
Khyla Craine: Thank you so much for having us, David. Really appreciate it.
David Fair: That is Michigan Department of State Deputy Legal Director Khyla Craine. And, once again, the Road to Restoration Clinic will be held May 10th at Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti. For more information, visit our website at WEMU dot org. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and HD One Ypsilanti.
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