Contact with the criminal legal system often results in the assessment of fines and fees. For people who are indigent or subject to other financial obligations such as child support …
Unable to pay debt from traffic tickets, impoverished defendants were given the options of paying the debt immediately or sitting out their debt in jail at the rate of $50.00 a day. Those in jail were given the further option of performing janitorial services at the rate of $25.00 a day. No inquiry was made as to the defendant’s ability to pay.
This video by Human Rights Watch shows how private probation companies can strip people of basic necessities and jail them because they can’t afford to pay their court debt and exorbitant probation fees.
Foster Cook’s report includes quantitative and qualitative survey results from 943 participants from 13 counties in Alabama. The report includes information about the collateral consequences of increased court costs on incarcerated people in Alabama, including harsh penalties for nonpayment and the phenomenon of defendants turning to crime as a funding source to pay their fines and fees.
The SPLC filed a lawsuit challenging Cleveland’s and Watts’ incarceration as a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution.
This Hawaii law specifies criteria that must be satisfied before a court can sentence a person to pay a fine. If the fine is the only punishment included in a sentence, the court cannot assess the fine unless “the person is or will be able to pay the fine,” and “the fine will not prevent the defendant from making restitution to the victim.”
Stearns examines the imposition and enforcement of Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) in Washington State on people unable to pay them and argues that the resulting disparities impact the ability of the criminal justice system to impose fair and meaningful penalties that hold people accountable and reduce recidivism.
Mr. Blazina was sentenced to 20 months in prison for second degree assault. Attached to his sentence was over $3000 in fees and tens of thousands of dollars in restitution. The Washington Supreme Court held that individualized inquiries of the defendant’s current and future ability to pay must be made before imposing Legal Financial Obligations.
Included in the appellant’s sentence was “court costs” of $234. The appellant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the amount of the costs.
This publication uses personal accounts of people in five different states who struggled to pay their court debt to illustrate the negative effects of debtors’ prisons on individuals, the economy, and the justice system.