A landmark bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week will eliminate 17 fees charged to individuals involved in the state’s criminal justice system. The law is modeled in part on a pace-setting program launched by San Francisco in 2016 which has provided debt relief to 21,000 San Francisco residents.
A study of Idaho’s court system said monetary sanctions imposed on justice-involved young people and adults who are least able to pay them is like trying to squeeze “blood from a turnip,” while pushing them further into the criminal justice system.
Local and state governments should fund the police and criminal justice system through general revenues or widespread forms of financing instead of using fines and fees, writes Gene B. Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council, in an op ed for The New York Times.
Maryland lawmakers are meeting Wednesday to debate proposed legislation that would end home monitoring costs and prohibit state-funded pretrial services from charging defendants. These fees are even more burdensome to poor people during a public health crisis, write Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney, and Priya Sarathy Jones, National Policy and Campaigns Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center.
In 2016, San Francisco became the first city and county in the nation to reexamine a system of court costs that imposed a crushing burden on tens of thousands of low-income residents. Nearly four years later, it reports impressive results.
As state and local governments take a financial hit during COVID-19, some localities are relying on a tried-and-true revenue stream: the court system and the predominantly low-income people who churn through it.
A recent state Supreme Court order set in motion measures to end some money bonds and stop penalizing people for failure to pay court fines and fees in an effort to slash jail populations. Other states have followed suit in a trend long recommended by advocates. But will it last once the pandemic is over?