Every year fines and fees devastate the lives of millions of Americans.
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.
Those who cannot immediately pay these costs face additional fees, license suspensions, loss of voting rights, arrest and jail. Stuck in a cycle of punishment and poverty, people can lose their jobs, their homes, and even their children. We have created a two-tier system of justice where poor people – and particularly communities of color – are disproportionately punished.
The Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) is catalyzing a movement to eliminate the fines and fees that distort justice. Our goal is to create a justice system that treats individuals fairly, ensures public safety and community prosperity, and is funded equitably. We work together with affected communities and justice system stakeholders to eliminate fees in the justice system, ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced, and end abusive collection practices.
FFJC currently works in four states: Florida, Nevada, New York, and New Mexico. Working with directly impacted communities, FFJC has developed broad-based coalitions from across the political spectrum including grassroots organizations, judges, public defenders, prosecutors, legislators, law enforcement, and faith-based and advocacy organizations.
FFJC works on the national reforms with two campaigns: Free to Drive, a nationwide campaign to end debt-based license restrictions; and Cities and Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, a network facilitated by PolicyLink and the City of San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project which works together to identify and support localities that want to assess and reform fines, fees, tickets, and financial penalties that disproportionately impact low-income people and people of color.
Our Clearinghouse is an easily-accessible digital library focused on fines and fees reform efforts around the country. We collect and organize research, pilot projects, litigation, legislation, court-rule changes, data, media, and community voices related to fines and fees reform. Every piece of content includes an easy-to-digest summary of the article’s content as well as multiple tags so you can easily find what you’re looking for. The Clearinghouse also contains actionable guidance and tools that can be used by policymakers, advocates, courts, and community organizations interested in reform. Visit the Clearinghouse here.
How We Can Work With You
FFJC is national a hub for the fines and fees reform movement, working with impacted communities, researchers, advocates, legislators, justice system stakeholders, and media all across the nation. 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. Our staff are frequent speakers at conferences and meetings, helping to educate the country about fines and fees. Contact us here.