September 1, 2017
Price of Injustice
Josie Duffy RiceDaily Kos
Marc LevinCenter for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Phil TelfeyanEqual Justice Under Law
Karin MartinJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice
Thomas HarveyArchCity Defenders
Over the last several decades, America's criminal justice system has increasingly imposed onerous financial burdens on the criminally accused - often the most economically vulnerable - including money bail, asset forfeiture, court fees, and fines. When used appropriately, these tools may increase public safety and hold those who commit crimes accountable for their actions. But too often these financial penalties are imposed indiscriminately or used to raise funds for police, the courts, or other local government programs without the need to raise taxes, while leaving the accused and their families with crushing, sometimes insurmountable debt. The inability to pay money bail results in extended jail stays, even for those eventually acquitted. Forfeited assets are often impossible to reclaim regardless of a person's innocence or guilt. Failure to pay fines can result in driver's license suspensions, probation or parole revocation, and even incarceration. What are the tools we can bring to bear to reduce the burdens of criminal justice debt? What levers within the law can we target to make our system more just, efficient, and fair?