Local governments in New York, California, and Texas generated over 40 percent of the $9 billion collected from fines and fees in 2020.
The use of fines and fees to generate revenue can be exploitative and a conflict of interest when relied on as an essential source of revenue. Using data from the Census Bureau, the Reason Foundation found that local governments raised nearly $9 billion from fines and fees in 2020 and created a data visualization tool to illustrate each state’s revenue. The tool allows users to look at specific cities, townships, and counties and determine the amount of money generated through fines and fees, the percentage of the revenue makeup of its general revenue, and the per capita amount collected. Along with the tool, the report also includes a list of recommendations for reform.
You can view the tool here.
- In 2020, Local governments in New York, Illinois, Texas, and Georgia collected more than $35 per resident in fines and fees compared to local governments in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which collected less than $3 per resident on a per capita basis.
- In 2017, local governments collected $4.97 billion in fines and fees revenue, $4 million less than in 2020.
- In 2017, most states’ fine and fee revenue comprised less than 5 percent of their general revenue; but almost 500 local governments derived 10 percent or more of their state’s general revenue from fines and fees, and 176 local governments derived 20 percent or more.
- End the use of user fees and poverty penalties in the criminal legal system.
- States should allocate funds from general revenues to fund court systems.
- Eliminate all fines and fees in the juvenile system.
- End driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay fines and fees.
- Collect and publish data on court debt and collection practices.