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Too Poor to Pay: How Arkansas’s Offender-Funded Justice System Drives Poverty & Mass Incarceration

This report identifies several promising issue areas for fines and fees reform in Arkansas, including nonpayment incarceration, driver’s license suspension for unpaid fines and fees, and probation fees. The authors interviewed 205 people who were charged and/or incarcerated over inability to pay fines and fees; performed court-watching in 8 counties; sent almost 300 records requests; and interviewed Arkansas criminal justice and social service stakeholders.

Timbs v. Indiana

Petitioner used life insurance proceeds to purchase a Land Rover for $41,558.30. He used the vehicle to transport heroin worth a total of $385. He was arrested and his vehicle was seized. Petitioner argued that the forfeiture was excessive in violation of the Eight Amendment’s excessive fines clause.

McNeil v. Community Probation Services

Community Probation Services, LLC and PSI Probation, LLC, for-profit probation companies, provide probation services for Giles County, Tennessee. The companies add their own fees and surcharges to the court debts of probationers.

Florida SB 734: Penalties and fees; driver’s license suspensions

The bill provides that driver’s licenses may not be suspended for failure to pay fines and fees unless the person has the ability to pay but refuses to do so. It also provides that courts must provide alternatives to immediate payment of fines and fees for people who are indigent, such as payment plans and community service.

(Color)blind Reform: How ability-to-pay determinations are inadequate to transform a racialized system of penal debt

This law review article argues that fines and fees reformers’ emphasis on instituting ability-to-pay determinations without any reductions in racially discriminatory ticketing may cause more harm than good. In particular, the author articulates a concern that ability-to-pay determinations risk legitimizing the existing system of monetary sanctions and entrenching damages inflicted upon people deemed ‘able to pay.’

Stinnie v. Holcomb

This case challenges the constitutionality of a Virginia statute that requires the automatic suspension of the driver’s licenses of people who fail to pay court fines and fees.
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