Ending the Debt Trap: Strategies to Stop the Overuse of Court-Imposed Fines, Fees, and Bail
For several years, researchers have looked at the role of the justice system nationwide in placing low-income people and people of color into serious financial disrepair. While “debtors’ prisons” are technically outlawed, courts throughout the nation have used loopholes in the law to place people in jail for the nonpayment of fines and fees.
More than $50 billion in debt from fines and fees is currently being held by approximately 10 million people because of their involvement in the criminal justice system. Much of this debt is not collected because low-income people simply do not have the money to pay fines and fees; this, in turn, causes state and local governments to spend more on the expense of trying to collect on these fees than what they take in. The practice targets the most vulnerable communities, such as low-income people and children who are unwittingly pulled into various court systems through unlawful and biased policing tactics. This judicial practice of assessing fines, fees, and additional charges distinctly promotes financial insecurity of low-income households. These practices play an integral role in wealth and income inequality, and contribute to the growing racial wealth gap in our country.
Join us for a webinar discussion on the latest research and strategies state and local leaders can use to ensure that judicial fines and fees do not contribute to burdensome debt, housing and employment barriers, and an increase in imprisonment and recidivism for low-income communities and people of color.
- Christopher M. Brown, Director for Financial Security, PolicyLink
- Alexandra Bastien, Senior Program Associate, PolicyLink
- Stephanie Campos-Bui, Clinical Teaching Fellow, Policy Advocacy Clinic, UC Berkeley School of Law
- Christian Henrichson, Research Director, Sentencing and Corrections, Vera Institute of Justice