RI opens path for former inmates to break impoverishing cycle of court fees and fines


The Rhode Island court system is owed more than $98 million in fees, fines, and other costs stretching back to 1900.

Many Rhode Islanders are saddled with debt after incarceration, making reentering into their communities difficult. After the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Rhode Island’s Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in Courts delved into court policies and procedures that could lead to unfairness and disparate impacts on racial and ethnic minorities. This led to the creation of the Debt Review program. As a part of the program, people can virtually meet with judges to reduce or eliminate their outstanding debt and cost-related warrants. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with the State Traffic Court Magistrate to discuss paths to restoring driver’s licenses. The committee, the Center for Health and Justice Transformation, and the Reentry Campus Program partnered to stage the debt review. 

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Key Findings:

  • A person with a misdemeanor conviction faces court costs of $93.50, $60 of which goes to the state’s general fund. 
  • People convicted of a felony face $270 to $450 of fees per charge, the courts also add about $1,000 in fines and a lab fee of $118 for drug convictions. 
Katie Mulvaney
The Providence Journal