Almost every encounter with the criminal justice system can give rise to a fee, reports the New York Times. There are application fees and co-payments for public defenders. Sentences include court costs, restitution, and contributions to various funds. In Washington State, people convicted of certain crimes are charged $100 so their DNA can be put in a database. Private probation companies charge $30 to $40 a month for supervision. Halfway houses charge for staying in them. People sentenced to community service must buy $15 insurance policies for every week they work. Criminals on probation and parole wear global positioning devices that monitor their whereabouts – for of as much as $16 a day.
The sums raised by these mounting fees are intended to help offset the enormous costs of operating the criminal justice system. Even relatively small fees, like $40 for a court-ordered anger management class or $15 for a drug test, can have devastating consequences for people who emerge from prison with no money, credit, or prospects, and who live in fear of being sent back for failing to pay. “The difference between 30 years ago and today,” said defense lawyer George Kendall of New York City, “is that people who everyone agrees are poor are leaving the courthouse significantly poorer.” Prosecutors and political leaders say it is only fair that criminals rather than taxpayers pay for what it costs to protect the public.