Sentenced to a Life of Debt: It Is Time for a Reassessment of How Bankruptcy Law Intersects with Fines and Fees to Keep People in Debt


“The goals of allowing a financial fresh start, protecting public safety, and encouraging reha- bilitation are not at odds”.

Court debt has generally been excluded from the fresh start bankruptcy provides, despite the disproportionate and devastating impacts on those who cannot afford to pay. This article reviews the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code that limit the discharge of criminal justice debt and proposes reforms to the Code.

You can read the full report here


  • Acknowledge that revenue generation is not a legitimate state interest and fees imposed for that purpose should not be excepted from discharge. 
  • Limit the duration of a bar to discharge all forms of criminal justice debt.
Andrea Bopp Stark and Geoff Walsh
National Consumer Law Center