This bench card was created as part of a 2016 settlement agreement in Kennedy v. Biloxi, an ACLU lawsuit against the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, where defendants could avoid incarceration only if they paid their fines and fees immediately, in full, with cash.
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.
Plaintiffs alleged that the Sherwood’s “hot check” court routinely jailed indigent persons unable to pay court fines and fees without inquiry into their ability to pay.
Pennsylvania’s 2015 House Bill 2043 mandates that courts provide community service and payment plans as alternatives for people who would experience manifest hardship if they had to pay all of their fines and fees at once.
In this video recording of a White House Forum on Access to Justice panel, FFJC Co-Director Lisa Foster (then Director of the Office of Access to Justice at the Department of Justice) moderates a panel about how fines and fees in the criminal justice system can lead to a myriad of civil woes for low-income Americans.
In this essay, Marsh and Gerrick challenge the most common justification for why debtors’ prisons still exist in present-day America: generating revenue to fund local government and courts. The authors argue that revenue generation is an “incomplete explanation” for debtor’s prisons and point to a variety of other factors that could help complete the picture.
This Act reduces the amount of fees charged to individuals who receive a minor traffic or municipal ordinance violation and changes the procedure for charging fines and fees to people who receive minor traffic or municipal ordinance violations.
The YourSTL Courts site is a free online tool that provides basic information about courthouses, courthouse visits, and community service judgments and allows St. Louis County residents to determine if they have outstanding tickets.
Over the course of six months in 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court Ability to Pay workgroup examined the issue of ability to pay and published a report with tools, best practices, and recommendations for judges and court staff around nonpayment incarceration.