This Guide for Policy Reform by Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program is organized into four issue areas: conflicts of interest, poverty penalties and poverty traps (when people are forced to pay more or face harsher sanctions because of their poverty), the ability-to-pay determination, and transparency and accountability. Under each of these sections, a description of the problem is followed by legislative, judicial, and executive reform suggestions for people at the state level to use and incorporate into their efforts.
This guide aims to inform litigators about various strategies to defend and gain relief for individual clients burdened by criminal justice debt. It also serves to foster communication and understanding among stakeholders who work in this particular area of the justice system.
This video provides an overview of the history of debtors’ prisons in the U.S. and features compelling commentary from citizens describing how our current system of court fines and fees put them in difficult situations and made them resort to desperate measures for survival.
As budgets tighten, municipalities have turned to fines and fees to fill empty coffers. The result is that the rich may walk away, while the poor must pay or stay.
This 2015 Orlando Sentinel article describes how waiving surcharges assessed by collection agencies for one weekend led the Orange County Clerk of Courts to lower the rate these companies could charge going forward.
This report is the result of a collaborative research project from 20 community-based organizations that studied the costs of incarceration on families across 14 states.
In this video, John Oliver details the devastating impacts that low-income Americans suffer due to fines and fees and the involvement of private probation companies.
This seminal report examines fines and fees practices in the fifteen U.S. states with the highest prison populations, focusing on “user fees” and their impact on individuals reentering society after incarceration.
This report examines the impact of the Florida Legislature’s decision to levy “user fees” on people accused and convicted of traffic violations, misdemeanors and felonies without providing exemptions for the indigent.
Shortly after Chad Walker relocated to Hawaii for a new job, his employer closed and he became unemployed. During this time, Walker incurred traffic tickets that he could not afford to pay. He didn't find out that his license was suspended due to the unpaid ticket until he went to renew his license in 2012.