New Criminal Justice Debt Tool from Harvard's Criminal Justice Policy Program
Date:  04-18-2017

50-state interactive map is guide to fees, surcharges, reform recommendations and more
From the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard:

Policy background from CJPP Policy Guide


Criminal justice debt – the system of fees and fines in the criminal justice system – has serious consequences. The Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder brings transparency to this area of significant legal complexity: it gives easier access to state laws that govern criminal justice debt and suggests policy solutions through the Criminal Justice Policy Program’s Confronting Criminal Justice Debt: A Guide for Policy Reform.

By disproportionately burdening poor people with financial sanctions, and by jailing people who lack the means to pay, many jurisdictions have created a two-tiered system of criminal justice. Unchecked, these policies drive mass incarceration. Excessive fees and fines needlessly enmesh poor people in the criminal justice system by spawning arrests, court proceedings, periods of incarceration, and other modes of supervision for those who lack the ability to pay. Criminal justice debt also contributes to mass incarceration by destabilizing people living at the economic margins and by impeding reentry of formerly incarcerated people who face impossible economic burdens, leading to cycles of poverty and imprisonment. Monetary sanctions often serve purposes that have nothing to do with advancing the values typically associated with criminal justice. Although fines are designed to act as punishment or a deterrent, fees do not advance the traditional purposes of the criminal justice system. Rather, fees are often authorized by state legislatures as a means to generate revenue to fund courts or other government functions without raising taxes. In many jurisdictions, court costs and surcharges fund the agencies responsible for imposing fees and fines on individuals.

View the interactive map here.

To learn more about the 50-State Criminal Justice Reform Builder click here.