The Staten Island Day-Fine Project

Between 1987 and 1989, the Criminal Court of Staten Island, New York experimented with imposing day fines, marking the first time an experiment like this was conducted by the American court system. This publication describes how means-adjusted fines were implemented and the effects this pilot program had on sentencing, assessments, and collection rates. 

You can read the full text of the report here

Key findings

  • Judges were able to obtain information about people’s income to calculate their respective fines without disrupting the court’s regular workflow. 
  • The court’s high collection rate was maintained during the day fines experiment. 
  • During the year of the pilot program, average fines rose 25 percent and the total amount of fines increased by 14 percent. 
  • Six percent of cases where day fines were used yielded no payment, compared to 22 percent of cases that did not result in payment prior to the experiment. 
  • The number of arrest warrants issued for failure to appear at post-sentence hearings was significantly reduced during the day fine experiment. 
Laura L. Winterfield and Sally T. Hillsman
U.S. Department of Justice