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(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.

Mendoza v. Garrett

This case challenges the state of Oregon’s policy of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford to pay fines and fees for traffic violations.

Personal Narrative: Tina Marie

Tina Marie was convicted of failure to pay nine times and sentenced to 30 days in jail seven times. She entered a treatment program in 2017 and is now drug-free. In 2018, Tina Marie completed three months of temporary work, bringing home her first paycheck since her son died. She still owes $15000 in court debt. No inquiry was ever made as to her ability to pay.
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