Native Americans and Monetary Sanctions

Using an analysis of criminal court administrative data and in-depth interviews with decision-makers and defendants in Minnesota, the authors find that Native Americans are subject to the largest overall legal financial obligations (LFOs) in criminal court and carry the largest average LFO debt loads relative to other racial and ethnic groups in Minnesota. The authors also conclude that the confluence of poverty, spatial isolation, and targeted enforcement results in increased debt levels and disparities. 

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Key Findings: 

  • On average, courts imposed $267 in total fines, fees, and surcharges in cases with Native American defendants, compared to $273 fo Hispanic defendants, $245 for White, $248 for Asian, and $235 for Black. 
  • Native Americans also have higher outstanding LFO balances; in cases with Native American defendants, the average LFO debt is $130 statewide, 21 percent higher than Black defendants, the next highest group.
  • In areas proximal to reservations, Native American defendants are subject to greater monetary sanctions and more likely to carry greater LFO debt loads– 515 percent the average White outstanding balance, 284 percent the average Hispanic balance, and 183 percent the average Black balance.
Robert Stewart, Brieanna Watters, Veronica Horowitz, Ryan P. Larson, Brian Sargent, Christopher Uggen
The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, Vol. 8, Issue 2