The Fines and Fees Justice Center seeks to catalyze a movement to eliminate the fines and fees that distort justice. Our goal is to eliminate fees in the justice system and to ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced.
Our justice system is supposed to operate with integrity – providing equal justice for all. Yet in far too many places in the United States, court fines and fees have put an exorbitant price tag on justice. Across the country, courts impose fines as a punishment for minor traffic and municipal code violations, misdemeanors and felonies. Courts then tax people with fees, surcharges, and costs used to fund the justice system and other government services.
Fines and fees devastate the lives of millions of Americans. People who cannot immediately pay face additional fees, license suspensions, loss of voting rights and, far too frequently, arrest and jail. Millions of Americans get trapped in the justice system simply because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees. Stuck in a cycle of punishment and poverty, people can lose their jobs, their homes, and even their children. We’ve created a two-tier system of justice where poor people – and particularly communities of color – are disproportionately punished.
As a national center for advocacy, information, and collaboration, the Fines and Fees Justice Center’s mission is to create a justice system that treats individuals fairly, ensures public safety and community prosperity, and is funded equitably. FFJC works collaboratively with affected communities and justice system stakeholders to end abusive collection practices and eliminate the justice tax.
To accomplish our mission, the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) is pursuing a three-pronged approach:
- Developing a replicable advocacy model for comprehensive state-based reform,
- Creating a national Clearinghouse to provide information about reform efforts in all 50 states, and
- Providing support for reform efforts around the country.
The Fines and Fees Justice Center works in states to achieve comprehensive reform. Working with directly impacted communities, FFJC is building broad-based coalitions from across the political spectrum including grassroots organizations, judges, public defenders, prosecutors, legislators, law enforcement, and faith-based and advocacy organizations.
Initially targeting the most egregious practices, each state coalition will create a community-driven strategy for legislative and policy reforms. Our goal is to capitalize on the momentum of early success to achieve comprehensive, community-centered and durable reforms. We aim to create a replicable advocacy model that can be used to drive reform across the country, including effective communication and media tools, research, and best practices.
Currently, FFJC has active state campaigns in Florida and New York. If you want to join our coalition in either Florida or New York, or if you want to find out more about our campaigns, please visit our Florida and New York campaign pages.
FFJC’s online Clearinghouse collects and organizes research, pilot projects, litigation, legislation, court-rule changes, data, media, and community voices related to fines and fees reform in the United States. The goal of the Clearinghouse is to provide an easily-accessible library of information about fines and fees reform efforts around the country. Every piece of Clearinghouse content includes a summary written in plain language, and users can control how they navigate the Clearinghouse by applying combinations of filters: jurisdiction (e.g. Arizona), the type of content (e.g. legislation), and by the subject matter of the content (e.g. driver’s license suspensions).
The Clearinghouse also contains actionable guidance and tools that can be used by policymakers, advocates, courts, and community organizations interested in reform. For example, a community organization interested in ending driver’s license suspensions for non-payment of fines and fees would find legislation, research on the negative impacts of suspensions, and pilot reinstatement projects.
You can get to the Clearinghouse here.
National Reform Hub
FFJC serves as a hub for the fines and fees reform movement, working with impacted communities, researchers, advocates, legislators, justice system stakeholders, and media all across America. We provide resources, make critical connections, and offer strategic advice. Organizing and participating in national coalitions and convenings, we help reformers collaborate effectively and share their experiences and best practices. FFJC staff are frequent speakers at conferences and meetings, helping to educate the country about fines and fees.
Contact us if we can help you.