Skip navigation
Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual - Header

Shackled to Debt, Harvard Kennedy School-National Institute of Justice, 2017

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
New Thinking in Community Corrections
VE

RI

TAS

JANUARY 2017 • NO. 4


HARVARD Kennedy School
Program in Criminal Justice
Policy and Management

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations
and the Barriers to Re-Entry They Create
Karin D. Martin, Sandra Susan Smith and Wendy Still

Introduction

Executive Session on
Community Corrections

Formerly incarcerated people face a considerable

This is one in a series of papers that will be
published as a result of the Executive Session on
Community Corrections.

ability to graduate from community supervision

The Executive Sessions at Harvard Kennedy
School bring together individuals of independent
standing who take joint responsibility for
rethinking and improving society’s responses to
an issue. Members are selected based on their
experiences, their reputation for thoughtfulness
and their potential for helping to disseminate the
work of the Session.
Members of the Executive Session on Community
Corrections have come together with the aim of
developing a new paradigm for correctional policy
at a historic time for criminal justice reform. The
Executive Session works to explore the role of
community corrections and communities in the
interest of justice and public safety.
Learn more about the Executive Session on
Community Corrections at:
NIJ’s website: www.NIJ.gov, keywords “Executive
Session Community Corrections”
Harvard’s website: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/
criminaljustice/communitycorrections

number of obstacles to successful re-entry. Their
is complicated by their low and eroding levels of
education and skills (Waldfogel, 1994; Western,
Lopoo and McLanahan, 2004; Lopoo and
Western, 2005), serious mental and physical
health conditions that often go untreated (Travis,
2000; Mallik-Kane and Visher, 2008; Binswanger,
Krueger and Steiner, 2009; Rich, Wakeman and
Dickman, 2011), and alcohol and drug addictions
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d.; Karberg
and James, 2005; Mumola and Karberg, 2006),
which are issues nurtured in neighborhoods of
concentrated disadvantage from which many
justice-involved people come. State-sanctioned
barriers, including government restrictions
on access to public-sector employment and
government-related private occupations (Dale,
1976; May, 1995; Olivares, Burton and Cullen,
1996; Petersilia, 2003; Bushway and Sweeten,
2007), restrictions on voting rights (Manza
and Uggen, 2006), and limited access to public
housing and social welfare programs also hinder

2 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

reintegration efforts (Carey, 2004; Thompson,

of fairness in the administration of justice in

2004). Despite recent successes1 in an effort to

a democratic society and engendering deep

“ban the box” — the “box” on employment and

distrust of the criminal justice system among

college applications that asks about criminal

those overburdened by them.

history — the social stigma that justice-involved
people face further compounds problems with

In what follows, we describe trends in the

re-entry, including their attempts to find work

assessment of CJFOs, discuss the historical

(Pager, 2003, 2007).

context within which these trends have unfolded,
and reflect on their unintended (but perhaps

To this lengthy list we add yet another significant

easily foreseen) consequences. We then treat

state-sanctioned barrier — criminal justice

restitution separately, given the distinct function

financial obligations (CJFOs), also known as

(in theory at least) that restitution serves. We also

monetary sanctions or legal financial obligations.

raise serious concerns about how restitution

There are at least five types of CJFOs (Ruback

tends to be implemented and who benefits from

and Bergstrom, 2006; Harris, Evans and Beckett,

this particular obligation. We end by considering

2010): fines and forfeiture of property, which are

alternative models for the effective and fair

intended as punishment; costs and fees, including

deployment of fines, fees and restitution in the

but not limited to court costs and supervision

criminal justice context.

fees, which reimburse the state for costs
associated with the administration of justice;

Historical and Institutional Context

and restitution, a financial payout to specific

CJFOs are not new. According to Harris and

victims or a general fund designated for them,

colleagues (2010: 1758), “monetary sanctions

intended to compensate victims for the losses

were integral to systems of criminal justice,

they have suffered. Although some have written

debt bondage, and racial domination in the

about the benefits of incorporating CJFOs as one

American South for decades.” Although their

option among many criminal justice sanctions

use waned significantly in the first half of the

(Morris and Tonry, 1990; Gordon and Glaser,

20th century, CJFOs have proliferated since

1991; Ruback and Bergstrom, 2006), this form of

the 1980s. As a result of statutes and policies at

sanction can, if left unchecked, have long-term

every level — city/municipal, county, state and

effects that significantly harm the efforts of

federal — that mandate various forms of CJFOs,

formerly incarcerated people to rehabilitate and

the vast majority of people who come into contact

reintegrate, thus compromising key principles

with the criminal justice system and are found

2

guilty (and some who are not) pay for these
Cite this paper as: Martin, Karin D., Sandra Susan Smith, and Wendy Still.
Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers
to Re-Entry They Create. New Thinking in Community Corrections Bulletin.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice,
2017. NCJ 249976.

encounters or are punished for not doing so.

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 3

The 1960s and 1970s marked an opening for

With this shift in values came the implementation

the resurgence of CJFOs. According to Garland

of a set of rigid criminal justice policies —

(2001), the rehabilitative approach to crime and

determinate sentencing, truth in sentencing,

punishment had been hegemonic since the 1890s.

mandatory minimums and three strikes — that

Under this approach, crime was understood in

not only drove up rates of incarceration but also

terms of relative deprivation. Specifically, when

dramatically increased the numbers of those

deprived of proper education, socialization,

under supervision outside the nation’s jails and

opportunities and treatment, individuals were

prisons (Western, 2006; Wacquant, 2009; Raphael

more likely to become involved with the justice

and Stoll, 2013). Between 1925 and 1975, fewer

system. But with individualized treatment, aid

than 100 Americans per 100,000 were in prison.

to and supervision of families, institutionalized

By 2003, even though crime rates had remained

supports for education, and job creation and

relatively stable, this number had quadrupled

training, people would likely abstain from further

to more than 400 per 100,000. Further, between

criminal behavior. Mass protests of the 1960s

1983 and 2001, incarceration (jail and prison) in

and 1970s, however, inspired a marked shift in

the United States increased from 275 inmates

values and approaches to criminal justice. With

per 100,000 to 686 inmates per 100,000, more

unrest related to the Vietnam War, women’s

than five times the rate in Western European

liberation and various Civil Rights revolutions

countries (Western, 2006). The numbers of people

threatening to fundamentally disrupt the

under community supervision also increased

foundation on which well-established racial,

dramatically. In 1980, Wacquant (2009) reports

gendered and class-based hierarchies had been

that 1.84 million were on probation or parole. By

built, many people raised serious concerns about

1990, that figure had increased to 4.35 million and

the rehabilitative approach, arguing that it was

jumped again to 6.47 million by 2000 (Wacquant,

ineffective (relative to alternative approaches) at

2009).

addressing the emerging threats society faced.
These critics favored the retributive approach

The proliferation of CJFOs was likely a result, direct

instead. In this approach, criminal behavior

and indirect, of this cultural shift to retribution.

was not considered a deviation from the norm

First, in an era of “just deserts” punishment, the

but rather a rational choice by self-serving actors

increased use of fines and forfeiture, alone or in

who were taking advantage of opportunities

combination with other forms of nonmonetary

in contexts where sufficient controls and

sanctions, signaled to the public that people who

disincentives for crime were weak or nonexistent.

committed crimes were being made to account

State efforts at retribution, incapacitation and the

for their actions (Wacquant, 2009). Second, the

management of risk would effectively curtail such

1970s cultural shift included increased concern

self-serving, opportunistic behaviors.3

for victims who, it was argued, should be

4 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

made whole — through reparations — after

the type of offense, may now be assessed (Nieto,

experiencing crime-related losses (Office for

2006). Texas has 15 categories of court costs

Victims of Crime, 2013; Garland, 2001).

that are “always assessed” and an additional 18
discretionary CJFOs that include fees for being

Third — and perhaps most important — as

committed or released from jail (Texas District

the criminal justice apparatus swelled to

Court, 2013). In Washington state, a defendant

accommodate the oceans of people cycling in

with a single conviction is subjected to 24 fines

and out of the system’s courts, jails, prisons, and

and fees (Beckett and Harris, 2011).

probation and parole departments, so too have
the costs to operate such a system. For instance,

Jurisdictions have also shifted costs to justice-

Wacquant (2009) shows that, between 1980 and

involved people by increasing the amounts

1997, criminal justice budgets — those devoted

and numbers of fines, fees and surcharges they

to police, justice and corrections — increased

assess. For instance, since 1996, Florida added

from roughly $35 billion to $130 billion per

more than 20 new categories of CJFOs and

year. Growth in criminal justice personnel also

recently increased amounts of existing fees and

skyrocketed, from approximately 1.3 million

surcharges in two consecutive years (Bannon,

in 1980 to 2.1 million in 1997. Wacquant (2009)

Nagrecha and Diller, 2010; Diller, 2010). In New

notes that, based on the number of personnel

York state — where the laws require 10 mandatory

in 1997, American criminal justice was the third

surcharges, 19 fees5 and six civil penalties ranging

largest employer in the country, second only to

from $5 to $750 — lawmakers have repeatedly

Manpower, Inc., and Walmart.

increased the amounts and numbers of fees and
surcharges since the early 1990s (Rosenthal and

However, legislators have been reluctant to pass

Weissman, 2007). In 2008 alone, two “additional

these dramatically rising costs on to taxpayers.

surcharges” were assessed for driving offenses;

Jurisdictions have instead shifted more of the

fees for assistance to victims of misdemeanor

costs to justice-involved people through CJFOs

crimes and felony crimes were increased by $5

(Wacquant, 2009), implicating every stage of

each; and surcharges for felonies, misdemeanors

criminal case processing (Bannon, Nagrecha

and violations were increased by $5 to $50

and Diller, 2010).4 They have done so in at least

(Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010). In 2009,

three ways — by imposing numerous new fines,

North Carolina initiated two new fees — a $25

fees and surcharges; by increasing the amounts

late fee for debtors making tardy payments and

associated with CJFOs; and by adopting more

a $20 surcharge for those wishing to establish a

proactive strategies to collect debt. In California,

payment plan for their CJFOs. North Carolina also

for instance, 16 different statutes codify 269

increased fees for defendants who fail to appear

separate court fines, fees, forfeitures, surcharges

in court and increased the costs associated with

and penalty assessments that, depending on

lab tests (Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010).

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 5

Since 2010, 48 states have increased civil and

For persons who a re i nca rcerated, t he

criminal fees (Shapiro, 2014), a likely response

overwhelming majority now accumulate mounds

to government coffers emptied by the effects of

of debt due to numerous fees while behind bars.

the Great Recession (Burch, 2011; Government

A 1997 survey of the nation’s largest jails revealed

Accountability Office, 2015). It is no wonder, then,

that more than three-quarters of people in jail

that CJFOs have become ubiquitous.6

were charged fees for a host of programs and
services, most notably medical care, per diem

With ubiquity, the odds of justice-involved

payments, work release programs and telephone

persons receiv ing one or more monetar y

use; the latter three produced the greatest revenue

sanctions and the median amounts assessed

by far. By 2005, that figure had risen to 90 percent.

have increased substantially.7 For instance,

In addition, more than 85 percent of people on

Harris and colleag ues (2010) report t hat

probation and parole are now required to pay

25 percent of federal prison inmates were

supervision fees, fines, court costs or restitution

assessed fines, but that figure rose to 66 percent

to victims to remain free from further sanctions

by 2004 — only 13 years later. 8 Although the

(Travis and Petersilia, 2001; Rainville and Reaves,

prevalence of fines and restitution payments

2003; Siegel and Senna, 2007).

subsided to 32 percent of federal nonimmigration
cases in 2015, it is important to note that the

The result of this expansion in the numbers and

overwhelming majority of cases for some federal

amounts of CJFOs, deployed at every stage of

offenses — robbery, fraud, larceny, arson and

criminal case processing, is that some 10 million

burglary, for instance — received a fine or were

people owe more than $50 billion from contact

required to pay restitution (U.S. Sentencing

with the criminal justice system (National Center

Commission, 2015).

for Victims of Crime, 2011; Evans, 2014; Eisen,
2015). 9 To be clear, jurisdictions collect only

On the state level, 4 percent of persons convicted

a fraction of this debt each year; for instance,

of felonies who were sentenced to prison in 1986

people owe the federal government more

were also fined; by 2004, that figure was seven

than $100 billion in criminal debt, and federal

times higher (28 percent) (Harris, Evans and

judges assessed nearly $14 billion in monetary

Beckett, 2010). On the local level, 12 percent

penalties in fiscal year 2014, but the federal

of persons charged with felonies who were

government collects only $4 billion each year (U.S.

sentenced to jail in 1985 (awaiting trial or serving

Department of Justice, 2015). Nevertheless, CJFOs

time for less serious felonies) were also fined; by

still produce significant revenue for federal, state

2004, that figure tripled to 37 percent. In addition,

and municipal coffers. According to the Criminal

17 percent of people on probation for felonies in

Court of the City of New York (2014), in the New

1986 were also fined; by 2004, that figure more

York metropolitan area, fines generate 47 percent

than doubled to 36 percent.

of criminal court revenue, which is then split

6 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

between New York City and the state. Another

been ignored in order to recover the costs of a

report finds that “administrative assessments

behemoth penal apparatus by increasing the

on citations fund nearly all of the Administrative

amounts and numbers of CJFOs. As a result, on

Office of the Court’s budget in Nevada [and] ...

all levels of government, policymakers’ actions

[i]n Texas, probation fees made up 46 percent of

have produced a set of unintended and negative

the Travis County Probation Department’s $18.3

consequences — especially for poor people and

million budget in 2006” (McLean and Thompson,

people of color — a point we turn to next.

2007: 3). In Ferguson, Missouri — the site of
major protests against police brutality inspired

Law Enforcement or Debt Collection?

by the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the

Du r i ng per iods of econom ic dow nt u r n,

hands of a Ferguson police officer — fines, fees

government revenues from various forms of

and surcharges, which are generously assessed

taxes inevitably fall; the temptation is to fund

and aggressively collected (particularly during

government by adding new fees and surcharges,

periods of projected general revenue shortfalls)

increasing the size of CJFOs, and deploying

covered slightly more than 20 percent of the

law enforcement in ever more aggressive debt

general revenue fund. In nearby towns, this

collection strategies. This will be too much for

figure was much higher.

some jurisdictions to ignore, especially if the
failure to engage in these practices would lead to

Unintended Consequences

budget deficits otherwise resolved with job cuts

Four principles have informed an ideal of how

in the system. Indeed, since 2010, several states

justice in the United States should be meted

(including but not limited to Arizona, Louisiana,

out — (1) the punishment should fit the crime

Ohio and Texas) have implemented new fees and

(proportionality); (2) the punishment should

increased already existing surcharges and fees

not exceed the minimum needed to achieve

to address 2010 budget shortfalls (Burch, 2011).

its legitimate purpose (parsimony); (3) the

Given this, we must consider what perverse

punishment should not compromise a formerly

incentives we create by tying the solvency of major

incarcerated person’s chance to lead a fulfilling

institutions to criminal justice enforcement.

and successful life (citizenship); and (4) penal

Essentially, the basic conflict that emerges when

systems should avoid reproducing social

a public institution is both the originator and

inequalities, especially given that formerly

the beneficiary of financial obligations is that

incarcerated people disproportionately come

resources are directed away from other critical,

from disadvantaged families and communities

but less lucrative, law-enforcing or adjudicating

(National Research Council, 2014). These

tasks (e.g., clearing backlogs of DNA analysis or

principles must be a part of any deliberation to

testing rape kits).10

establish fair and just penal policies and practices.
However, it seems these principles have largely

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 7

Perhaps more egregious is that such pressures

incentives can encourage more aggressive

can foster collusion bet ween government

policing and punitive punishments targeted at

agencies to generate revenue via law enforcement.

the poorest and most powerless among us.

Indeed, Ferguson provides stark evidence
that court officials’ use of law enforcement

The same pressures to produce revenue affect

to generate revenue to fund government can

probation and parole officers, who end up

lead to corruption and injustice, especially for

facing mutually incompatible demands. As

vulnerable populations. There, the city finance

social workers, they are expected to assess the

director explicitly urged both the police chief

needs of people under supervision and facilitate

and the city manager to write more tickets in

treatment. As law enforcement agents, they

order to fill municipal coffers. In other words,

are expected to monitor and surveil formerly

the system in Ferguson sought to extract

incarcerated persons (Rothman, 1980; Travis

income for the county and state from some

and Petersilia, 2001; Wodahl and Garland, 2009).

of its most disenfranchised citizens, often

As debt collectors, they are expected to monitor

through unconstitutional stops and arrests. Also,

payments, set up payment plans, aggressively

according to the Department of Justice report on

press people under supervision to pay court-

Ferguson, law enforcement practices — driven in

ordered and community corrections-related

part by racial bias — produced and exacerbated

CJFOs, and penalize them (including revoking

racial disparities throughout local policing, court

probation or parole) for missed payments

and jail systems.11 The overwhelming majority

(Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010). The first

of those arrested only because of an outstanding

two responsibilities relate to public safety

municipal (civil) warrant (96 percent) were

concerns but pit the “officer as advocate” who

African-American (U.S. Department of Justice,

offers individualized treatment against the

2015). As a result, they bore a disproportionate

“officer as law enforcement agent” who manages

burden as the primary population targeted to

risk.12 The third responsibility, however, does

make up for government revenue shortfalls.

not ensure public safety at all; perhaps with the

Adjacent cities and towns were no better, nor is it

exception of restitution to victims, it is solely

clear that such practices are specific to Missouri.

about generating revenue, which is disbursed to

Evidence from California reveals similar patterns

a general fund or to criminal justice agencies. But

of disproportionate harm of CJFO enforcement on

this third responsibility is the one that is likely to

minority communities (e.g., Lawyers’ Committee

be prioritized in a system whose financial health

for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area,

and well-being — indeed, the stability of officers’

2015). Moreover, because contact with police is

very own positions — hinge on it. Such efforts,

the common entry point to the criminal justice

however, distract from officers’ responsibilities to

system, any role of CJFOs in increasing exposure

ensure public safety and facilitate rehabilitation.

to police merits careful scrutiny because such

Given the incentives inherent in prioritizing

8 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

officers’ roles as debt collectors, we might

near poor (Western, 2006), these figures are not

have anticipated some of the unfair and unjust

inconsequential. In the short or long term, most

practices that have emerged.

of them simply could not afford to fulfill these
unreasonably high debt burdens.

Punishing the Poor
CJFOs can be quite daunting. In some states,
however, it is difficult to say with any precision
exactly how much those who have had contact
with the criminal justice system have been
assessed because, according to Bannon and
colleagues (2010), information about fees, fines,
surcharges and restitution cannot be found in
any one statutory code, and different types of
monetary sanctions are collected at different
stages of criminal case processing. Case studies
of different jurisdictions have been revealing.
Amounts vary by state but, for example, court
records from 2005 to 2011 reveal that persons
convicted of felonies in Alabama accrued a
median of about $5,000 in CJFOs (Meredith
and Morse, 2015). The Texas Office of Court
Administration reports that individuals released
on parole owe between $500 and $2,000 in
offense-related debt, a figure that does not
include restitution. A recent study examining the
hidden costs of incarceration finds that families
of the formerly incarcerated incur, on average,
$13,607 for court-related fines and fees (deVuono­
powell et al., 2015). An analysis of data from
Washington state revealed court assessments
ranging from a minimum of $500 (mandatory for
all felony convictions) to a maximum of $256,257;
the median amount assessed per person was
$5,254 and the mean was $11,471 (Harris, Evans
and Beckett, 2010). Because the vast majority
of formerly incarcerated people are poor or

Further, being indigent rarely exempts a person
from CJFOs.13 Focusing on the 15 states with
the largest prison populations, Bannon and
colleagues (2010) identified four mechanisms
through which the courts’ administration
of CJFOs have created barriers to re-entry.
First, even when courts had the discretion
to waive or modify monetary sanctions, few
considered whether people had the financial
resources to meet these obligations, and few
had institutionalized mechanisms to reduce
CJFOs contingent on people’s financial resources
(Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010). Second, few
states provided adequate payment plans to allow
formerly incarcerated people who are indigent to
pay down their debts over time; among states that
did, some required that people pay a fee to apply.14
Third, for indigent individuals, jurisdictions
could replace CJFOs with community service.
Some of the 15 states studied, however, did not
offer community service as an alternative, and
those that did offered limited options that the
courts rarely chose. Nor do these states offer
exemptions from the consequences associated
with inability to pay because of indigence. Unpaid
CJFOs are subject not only to unreasonably
high interest on court-imposed sanctions but
are also routinely subject to late fees, fees for
payment plans, and debt collection fees (Bannon,
Nagrecha and Diller, 2010).15 Consequently,
formerly incarcerated people and their family

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 9

members, who often shoulder the bulk of the

poorer credit scores, individuals with legal debt

legal debt burden (Wacquant, 2009; deVuono­

also risk being denied employment, and they

powell et al., 2015; Nagrecha and Katzenstein,

may be unable to secure credit cards, mortgages,

2015), can be saddled with these obligations for

leases or loans. Thus, employment, housing and

decades. Therein lies one of the major problems

transportation are all jeopardized. And, to be

with CJFOs, as applied in the U.S. For many, there

clear, in each of these areas the impacts are far

is no end to the resulting debt (Beckett, Harris

greater for racial minorities than for whites, not

and Evans, 2008; American Civil Liberties

solely because the former are disproportionately

Union, 2010; Harris, Evans and Beckett, 2010;

represented in the criminal justice system.

Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010; Katzenstein

Not only are they more likely to be targets of

and Nagrecha, 2011). The common, significant

aggressive law enforcement practices, once

time lag between assessment and final payment

caught in the criminal justice net they are also

undermines the goal of finality in punishment

penalized more harshly (Rosich, 2007; Spohn,

and poses significant obstacles to achieving

2000; Mitchell and MacKenzie, 2004; Jannetta et

stability because even small monthly payments

al., 2014; Starr and Rehavi, 2012).

on debt could reduce take-home pay substantially
among disadvantaged families and thus make

For some formerly incarcerated individuals,

it extremely difficult to meet other needs and

these liabilities may also have the unintended

obligations (deVuono-powell et al., 2015).

consequence of reducing commitment to work,
increasing reliance on available forms of public

For many, criminal justice debt can also

assistance (in some cases, CJFOs can make a

trigger a cascade of debilitating consequences,

person ineligible for receiving public assistance),

many of which undermine post-incarceration

or motivating further criminal involvement.

re-entry goals such as finding stable housing,

According to Harris and colleagues (2010), 80

transportation and employment (Bannon,

percent of the respondents found their legal debt

Nagrecha and Diller, 2010; Beckett and Harris,

obligations to be “unduly burdensome.” Despite

2011). For instance, Bannon and colleagues

the possibility that they might be sanctioned

(2010) find that legal debt can be a hindrance

with jail time for nonpayment, some chose not

to obtaining a driver’s license, can restrict

to work, instead engaging in criminal activity

voting rights,17 and can interfere with obtaining

or relying on state benefits (where these had not

credit and making child support payments.

been revoked because of CJFOs) to make ends

Criminal justice debt can also prompt additional

meet (also see Martin, 2015).

16

warrants, liens, wage garnishment and tax rebate
interception. In addition, it can lead to a civil

Perhaps the most intolerable penalty that formerly

judgment, which is available to credit agencies

incarcerated people who are indigent face for

because this information is made public. With

inability to pay CJFOs is to be re-incarcerated. A

10 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

lawsuit18 against the City of Ferguson, Missouri

that inability to pay cannot be the reason to

describes the experience of Ms. Fant, which

revoke probation or to re-incarcerate,19 there is

illustrates this concern:

ample evidence that inability to pay is indeed
associated with expanded custody (American

Ms. Fant was a 37-year-old single mother who

Civil Liberties Union, 2010). Incarceration can

worked as a certified nurse’s assistant. Over the

follow CJFOs in at least four ways. First, probation

course of 20 years, she was arrested more than a

and parole can be revoked or not granted for

dozen times. On the way to taking her children

nonpayment of CJFOs. According to Bannon and

to school one day in 2013, she was arrested and

colleagues (2010), regardless of the fact that none

taken to jail because of old traffic tickets. She

of the 15 states they studied adequately sought to

was initially told that she would only be released

determine individuals’ ability to pay, at least 13 of

after paying $300, but she was then “released”

these states allowed for revocation of probation

for free. Being released, however, just meant

and parole in cases where formerly incarcerated

that the arresting jurisdiction had dropped its

persons missed payments. Second, criminal

demand for money. Because she had unpaid

and civil offenses can result in incarceration

tickets in other nearby places (that paid for a

via willful failure to pay CJFOs, an action that

central city to house their jail inmates), “release”

is interpreted as civil contempt. Third, in some

meant she was kept in the same jail under the

states (such as Missouri), criminal justice

auspices of other jurisdictions. As a result, she

debtors can “pay off” their debt by “choosing”

was held in a single jail, but transferred to the

jail — requesting to participate in programs that

custody of one jurisdiction to another, totaling

allow them to pay down court-imposed debt by

five different jurisdictions — each holding her

spending time in jail. Finally, individuals can be

for three to four days and each insisting on

arrested and jailed in some states (e.g., Texas) for

hundreds or thousands of dollars to secure her

missing a debt payment or for failing to appear at

liberty. Eventually, she was told that her release

a court hearing relating to a missed debt payment

amount was $1,400, but after it was clear she

(e.g., Georgia). In February 2016, for instance,

would not be able to come up with the money,

seven armed U.S. Marshals arrested and jailed

she was released without paying anything. This

Paul Aker, a Texas resident, for failure to appear

freedom was temporary. The following year, she

in court to address a 29-year-old delinquent

was arrested again and told that she would have

federal student loan; the original loan was

to pay $1,400 or be held indefinitely. This time, her

$1,500 (Lobosco, 2016). Roughly one-quarter of

family and friends came up with $1,000 and she

the respondents in Harris and colleagues’ 2010

was released. She was told to make future cash

study served time in jail for nonpayment of fees

payments directly to the Police Department.

and fines; another study found that 12 percent

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in Bearden v.
Georgia (461 U.S. 660-661, 1983), which found

had been re-incarcerated for missing payments
(deVuono-powell et al., 2015). Thus, as assessed

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 11

and administered in the U.S., CJFOs can be quite

When signing on for service, most of them

punitive and insufficiently parsimonious. In

likely imagined that they would help make their

those instances, their administration challenges

communities safer and would positively impact

even basic notions of citizenship rights and social

the lives of those at high risk for future criminal

justice.

involvement. Few, if any, signed up to become
debt collectors. But, in many jurisdictions,

Distrust and Demoralization

systemic pressure to produce revenue puts

When people perceive that law enforcement

officers in this position, whether or not they like

officials have treated them unfairly, they come

it. In Ferguson, for instance, where community

to distrust the motives of legal authorities and

policing efforts had never been more than modest,

to negatively assess the procedures by which

their efforts had recently declined further to

legal authorities engage them. They also come

focus more police time and energy on revenue

to question the very legitimacy on which law

generation. According to the DOJ report (U.S.

enforcement’s authorit y rests, feeding an

Department of Justice, 2015: 87):

unwillingness to consent or to cooperate with
law enforcement in general (Tyler and Huo, 2002).
Thus, to the extent that CJFOs are administered
in unfair and unjust ways, it should come as no
surprise that the U.S. system of CJFOs breeds
deep distrust of the criminal justice system,
especially among the poor and people of color.
To illustrate, the Department of Justice (DOJ)
report on Ferguson highlighted how the unfair,
unlawful, disrespectful and harmful practices
of the police and the courts, both in Ferguson
and in nearby towns and cities, led Ferguson’s
black residents to both fear and distrust them,
further deteriorating already strained relations
between law enforcement and the communities
they are tasked to serve as well as contributing to
less effective, more difficult, less safe and more
discriminatory policing (U.S. Department of
Justice, 2015).

Officers we spoke with were fairly consistent in
their acknowledgment of this, and of the fact
that this move away from community policing
has been due, at least in part, to an increased
focus on code enforcement and revenue
generation in recent years. [O]ur investigation
found that FPD redeployed officers to 12-hour
shifts, in part for revenue reasons ... . While
many officers in Ferguson support 12-hour
shifts, several told us that the 12-hour shift
has undermined community policing. One
officer said that “FPD used to have a strong
community policing ethic — then we went
to a 12-hour day.” ... Another officer told us
that FPD officers should put less energy into
writing tickets and instead “get out of their cars”
and get to know community members. One
officer told us that officers could spend more
time engaging with community members

CJFOs may also be demoralizing for officers,

and undertaking problem-solving projects if

especially police, probation and parole officers.

FPD officers were not so focused on activities

12 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

that generate revenue. This officer told us,

general restitution fund. The first case preserves

“everything’s about the courts ... the court’s

the notion of “restoration” inherent in restitution,

enforcement priorities are money.”

but the second case is far less clear. Surely, a
victim who cannot collect from the person who

It is difficult to say how widespread the perception

actually committed the offense still benefits

is among officers that debt collection has directed

from compensation from a state restitution fund.

attention away from arguably more important

Indeed, Vermont (where the average individual

roles that law enforcement officers can play in the

restitution order is $1,100) has a system that

communities they serve, but the comments that

allows for victims to be paid immediately

officers in Ferguson shared suggest that officers’

upon court order, using capital funded by a

morale might be a part of the collateral damage

15-percent surcharge on all criminal and civil

from the expansion of a monetary sanctions

fines (Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services,

system that relies heavily on officers’ efforts to

2012). But the flip side of this arrangement is that

collect debts.

people convicted of offenses must contribute to

Victims and Restitution

compensating victims of crimes in which they
played no role (and even when they have inflicted

Restitution stands somewhat apart from the

no harm to an identifiable victim or property).

other types of CJFOs. It is meant to be assessed

How this ultimately weighs in the balance in

when there is both an identifiable victim and

terms of ethics is beyond the scope of this report;

quantifiable (i.e., “monetizable”) harm to person

however, the situation merits careful attention

or property. The underlying notion is to directly

when considering the universe of CJFOs and their

compensate a crime victim for a specific loss

consequences.

stemming from the offense. Therefore, on the
federal level at least, restitution is mandatory for

The second problem with restitution is the

several categories of offenses, as stipulated in

enormous, int ractable and g row ing gap

the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996.20

between the restitution amounts assessed and

Problems arise, however, when we examine

the amounts actually collected and disbursed.

both the practice and the consequences of

By one estimate, total state restitution debt was

restitution as it is actually implemented. First,

nearly $40 billion in 2007 (Dickman, 2009). At the

the system of payment and disbursement very

federal level, there is more than $100 billion in

often severs the direct link between the person

uncollected criminal debt, of which restitution

who committed the crime and the victim. A judge

is a large portion. Collection rates across the

may issue either a direct order for restitution,

country reveal the extent of the problem. In

which is related to a victim’s loss, or the person

Florida, people convicted of felonies owe $709

who committed the offense may have to pay to a

million of restitution debt, of which the state

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 13

collects 4.5 percent (Burnett, 2012). In Iowa,

Finally, it is essential to remember that — from

judges ordered $159 million in restitution over

the perspective of the debtor — restitution is

a five-year period but collected only $19 million

simply part of a formidable amount of criminal

during the same period (12 percent of the amount

justice debt. Importantly, this debt incurs

owed) (Eckhoff, 2012). In Texas, the parole

disproportionate harm. An analysis of 80,000

division collected 5.3 percent of the $43 million

Florida correctional cases found that unpaid

that discharged parolees owed between 2003

restitution rendered almost 40 percent of the

and 2008; fewer than 10 percent of parolees paid

debtors ineligible to have their rights restored

their restitution in full (Vogel, 2008). Vermont’s

(Diller, 2010). In sum, although restitution serves

restitution collection rate of 31.8 percent for

a particularly distinct function compared to the

2005 to 2010 is, by comparison, relatively high

other CJFOs, it suffers from pitfalls that render it

(National Center for Victims of Crime, 2011).

just as problematic.

Not only are collection rates generally poor,21
but the amount of outstanding restitution debt

Recommendations

is growing. For instance, the amount of unpaid

As administered in the U.S. system, CJFOs can

restitution in Florida grew 51 percent between

be punitive and insufficiently parsimonious.

2007 and 2012 (Burnett, 2012).

As others have written (Bannon, Nagrecha and

Of course, these low collection rates mean low
disbursement rates — very few victims are paid
or are paid in full. Pennsylvania, for example,
disbursed less than 12 percent of the $435
million it assessed in restitution for the three
years ending in 2012 (Pennsylvania Office of
the Victim Advocate and the Center for Schools
and Communities, 2013). Minnesota assesses
$25 million in restitution, with an individual
average of $2,100. Of this, only 25 percent is paid,

Diller, 2010; deVuono-powell et al., 2015), we
can and must do better. In what follows, we
offer recommendations for reform. Although
these recommendations will not reverse the
damage done to individuals, their families
and the communities they come from, if these
or similar reforms are implemented moving
forward, millions of people who are enmeshed
in the criminal justice system might avoid the
same troubling fate.

but taking into account restitution that is reduced,

We propose two sets of reforms. The first regards

adjusted or credited, the amount of restitution

the use of CJFOs for low-income or poor people

that is “satisfied” reaches 49 percent. There is also

and includes six recommendations. First, when

significant variation by county: outstanding debt

setting out to use CJFOs to punish and deter

ranges from as low as 6 percent of the assessed

or repair and reimburse victims, we must

amount to as high as 83 percent (Minnesota

consider people’s ability to pay. In the U.S.,

Restitution Working Group, 2015).

statutorily mandated fines, fees, surcharges
and restitution are not adjusted to ability to

14 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

pay (Justice Management Institute and Vera

to accrue on the CJFOs that are assessed; the

Institute of Justice, 1996). However, tailoring

poor, as objectively determined, should not

the sanction to the individual, as is often done

have to pay fees to apply for payment plans, as

in parts of Europe (Kantorowicz, 2014), would

penalties for late payments, or as part of an

avoid many of the deleterious effects found in

aggressive campaign of debt collection; and

the American CJFO system. In Europe, “day­

under no circumstances should individuals

fines” (as they are called) are calculated on the

be incarcerated for delinquency on financial

basis of a person’s financial situation — typically

obligations related to criminal or civil judgments.

by calculating a percentage of income — and the

Importantly, by taking an individual’s financial

severity of the offense (Hillsman and Mahoney,

resources into consideration and eliminating

1988; Vera Institute of Justice, 1988).22 In addition,

poverty penalties, we also end indeterminate

because the financial burden on the individual

punishment and related debt; individuals will

is considered seriously as part of the assessment

be relieved of criminal justice debt and related

rationale, European countries that have adopted

incarceration that can extend for decades, if not

this approach have been able to generate income

a lifetime.

without undermining the basic tenets of effective
criminal justice policy (Frase, 2001).23

Third, alternatives to monetary sanctions should
also be considered more seriously than they are,

Second, additional safeguards need to be

especially where indigent persons are concerned.

implemented so as not to penalize the poor for

Financial transactions are not the sole means by

being poor. The short- and long-term prospects

which people can be made to account for their

for people who are formerly incarcerated or under

actions and make victims whole. As indicated

supervision are also negatively affected by the

earlier in the report, community service is an

interest that accrues on criminal justice debt

available option in most states, although it is used

as well as the fees and penalties for delinquent

infrequently. When implemented judiciously,

payments, payment plans and debt collector

however, this would seem to be a reasonable

services. These contribute to poverty entrapment

substitute for monetary sanctions.

by further increasing the debt burden for these
individuals, making it difficult to make ends

Fourth, jurisdictions should consider amnesty

meet and blocking opportunities for social and

for those who already hold debt. The evidence

economic stability and mobility. As a penalty

provided here shows the questionable value of

for tardy or missed payments, or missed court

pursuing debt from people unable to pay. Indeed,

hearings because of delinquent payments,

when the cost and social harm of enforcing CJFO

(re)incarceration also penalizes the poor. Very

collections is greater than the benefit of (typically

simply, these poverty penalties need to be

partial) payment, there is a strong argument for

eliminated — interest should not be allowed

amnesty. Accounting for and excusing CJFO debt

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 15

not only allows people to exit the destructive cycle

enforcing toward those activities that, while

of debt, warrants, arrests, court judgments and

doing little to promote public safety, would

incarceration, it also helps clear the prodigious

generate significant revenue for government

administrative backlog that typifies U.S. court

coffers, thus putting revenue, not safety, first.

systems.
To rectif y t his, we f irst propose t hat an
Fifth, if any fees are collected, they should be

independent commission should be established

deposited into a trust account to be invested solely

in each jurisdiction to determine the causes and

in direct rehabilitation services for the supervised

consequences of proposed increases to criminal

population. This approach is similar to the inmate

justice fees, fines, surcharges and the like. CJFOs

welfare funds that are mandatory for jails and

should not be allowed to increase in size and/or

prisons for fees collected from inmates, which can

number unless studies determine that changes

only be expended on direct programs or services

would not unduly burden those subject to

that benefit the inmate’s welfare. In a similar vein,

them. The institutional health and well-being of

we offer a sixth recommendation that connects

criminal justice institutions should not hinge on

criminal justice debt to the improved well-being

the amount and number of CJFOs assessed; this

of those who are involved in the justice system. To

is the purpose of general tax revenue.

the extent that they invest in their own education
and vocational training, their fees might be

Our second proposal is that the roles criminal

significantly reduced or erased. In this way, the

justice officers — probation, parole and police

government incentivizes behaviors it wishes to

officers — play should be limited to efforts that

see, with the prospect of reduced victimization

increase public safety. Law enforcement officers

and improved public safety.

should not be tasked with the responsibility to
collect debts. Their roles are already complicated

The second set of reforms addresses the criminal

by what some consider to be mut ua l ly

justice system’s growing reliance on CJFOs for

incompatible demands — being advocate

their own operations and maintenance. The

and counselor as well as law enforcement and

criminal justice system is meant to serve the

disciplinarian. To add a debt collection function

general public. As such, it is logical and just to

to their roles forces officers to pit their own

insist that each of us bears this burden. Instead,

jobs and that of the institution that employs

however, we increasingly require that people who

them against the efforts of individuals in their

have had contact with the criminal justice system

charge at rehabilitation and successful re-entry.

pay a disproportionate share for its operation;

Not only would this conflict further complicate

in so doing, we link the financial solvency of

what is already a difficult balancing act but, in

the institution to law enforcement practices.

essence, it would also direct attention away from

This incentivizes law enforcement to redirect

the more important task of facilitating increased

efforts away from critical, but less lucrative, law

public safety.

16 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

Endnotes
1. Boston, San Francisco and Minneapolis
were early adopters (Henry and Jacobs, 2007).
Currently, more than 100 cities and counties
nationwide have implemented “ban the box”
policies (Rodriguez and Avery, 2016).

participation in work release programs, per diem
payments and telephone use. Among the CJFOs
added to the tab of probationers and parolees
are monthly fees for supervision (including
electronic monitoring) and administration
fees for the installation of monitoring devices,
drug testing, mandatory treatment, therapy

2. In this report we do not consider child support.

and classes. Further, at each stage of criminal

Although child support often contributes to the

case processing, there are interest charges and

debilitating debt that justice-involved people

penalties for tardy payments, application fees

have, it has been treated extensively elsewhere.

for payment plans, and fees for debt collection

(See Grall, 2003, and Cammett, 2006, for

services — all adding to the heavy weight of

discussions of child support debt as it relates to

accumulated debt placed on justice-involved

justice-system involvement; also see Nagrecha

people, who are already disproportionately at a

and Katzenstein, 2015; Thoennes, 2002; U.S.

disadvantage economically and educationally

Department of Health and Human Services, 2006;

(Bannon, Nagrecha and Diller, 2010).

and Pearson, 2004.)
5. Included are fees for crime victim assistance,
3. See Garland (2001) for a full discussion of this

incarceration, DNA databanking, parole and

cultural shift.

probation supervision, sex offender registration,
and supplemental payments to sex offender

4. User fees a re com mon ly assessed at

victims.

preconviction; for instance, defendants can
be charged booking fees, application fees to

6. Despite its “growing normativity” (Katzenstein

obtain a public defender, and jail fees for pretrial

and Nagrecha, 2011), policies and practices

detention. At sentencing, fines associated with

related to the assessment, administration

convictions are typically accompanied by

and collection of CJFOs are quite diverse.

surcharges; the amount of restitution to victims

Jurisdictions typically have dozens of statutes

is determined; and fees mount up for court

mandating fines, fees and surcharges, but every

costs, designated funds and reimbursement for

comparison of jurisdictions — federal versus

public defenders and prosecution. During jail

state, between states, between counties within

or prison stays, fees are routinely assessed for a

a single state, and even between courthouses —

variety of programs and services, most commonly

reveals a substantial array of differences.

for medical services (including prescriptions,
physician/nurse visits, dental care and eye care),

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 17

7. Meredith and Morse (2015) illustrate this well

functions of our government are supported from

with case studies of Alabama and Tennessee.

basic and general tax revenues. Government
exists and operates for the common good based

8. These data are from the Survey of Inmates in

upon a common will to be governed, and the

State and Federal Correctional Facilities. The

expense thereof is borne by general taxation of

authors make clear that these figures likely

the governed.”

underestimate the use of CJFOs because they
do not include those assessed by departments

11. African-Americans were 68 percent less likely

of corrections, jails or other noncourt agencies

to have their cases dismissed by the court, at least

(Harris, Evans and Beckett, 2010).

50 percent more likely to have their cases lead to
an arrest warrant, and accounted for 92 percent of

9. In the federal system, more than $14 billion

cases in which the court issued an arrest warrant

in monetary penalties was assessed in fiscal

(U.S. Department of Justice, 2015).

year 2014 for up to 96 percent of cases for some
offenses. In a study of CJFOs in 11 states, the

12. These are in conflict to the extent that officers’

average amount of uncollected debt was $178

advocacy cannot comfortably coexist with their

million per state (McLean and Thompson, 2007).

role as disciplinarians.

California alone had $10.2 billion in outstanding
court-ordered debt at the end of 2012 (Taylor,

13. This is so despite a series of Supreme Court

2014). As of 2010, Iowa and Arizona reported

rulings to the contrary: Bearden v. Georgia, 461

unpaid court-ordered obligations on the order

U.S. 660 (1983); Frazier v. Jordan, 457 F.2d 726 (5th

of $533 million and $831 million, respectively.

Cir. 1972); Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395 (1971); and

Pennsylvania reported unpaid restitution of

Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235 (1970).

$638 million. In Los Angeles County, the fines,
forfeitures and assessments related to 8,000
complaints filed each week for failure to appear
exceeded $75 million in a single year. Finally, in
just one federal district in New York (southern

14. In Franklin County, Ohio, for instance, the
payment plan fee was $25; in the Orleans district
in Louisiana, it was $100 (Bannon, Nagrecha and
Diller, 2010).

region), more than $270 million was owed for

15. Economic sanctions had once been criticized

criminal debts (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014).

because they did not include penalties for

10. Concern about this motivation prompted
the Conference of State Court Administrators
(n.d.) to assert that “[i]t is axiomatic that the core

nonpayment (Petersilia and Turner, 1993; Langan,
1994; Wheeler et al., 1990).

18 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

16. In California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan,

interest in punishment and deterrence.” 461

North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia,

U.S. 660-661, http://supreme.justia.com/cases/

driver’s licenses are suspended if people fail to

federal/us/461/660.

make CJFO payments (Bannon, Nagrecha and
Diller, 2010).

20. The federal statute, 18 U.S. Code § 3663A,
“Mandatory restitution to victims of certain

17. In seven of the 15 states that Bannon and

crimes,” lists the following offenses as requiring

colleagues (2010) studied, CJFOs must be paid off

mandator y restitution: crimes of violence,

before people regain their right to vote. According

property offenses (including offenses committed

to Meredith and Morse (2015), southern states are

by fraud or deceit), offenses related to tampering

almost three times more likely than non-southern

with consumer products, and offenses relating

states to disenfranchise people because of CJFOs

to the theft of medical products. Mandatory

(40 percent compared to 14 percent).

restitution bars judges from considering a
defendant’s ability to pay when determining

18. Case No. 4:15-cv-253, U.S. District Court,

restitution.

Eastern District of Missouri.
21. Collection rates are hampered by people’s
19. “If a State determines a fine or restitution to

inability to pay, difficulty in locating people over

be the appropriate and adequate penalty for the

time, and age of the debt.

crime, it may not thereafter imprison a person
solely because he lacked the resources to pay

22. See Vera Institute of Justice (1988) for a full

it. Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235; Tate v. Short,

explanation of how this works.

401 U.S. 395. If the probationer has willfully
refused to pay the fine or restitution when he

23. The U.S. does have some experience with

has the resources to pay or has failed to make

day-fines. During the 1980s and 1990s when

sufficient bona fide efforts to seek employment

some in the criminal justice communit y

or borrow money to pay, the State is justified in

sought alternative sanctions to incarceration,

using imprisonment as a sanction to enforce

several initiatives were launched to explore

collection. But if the probationer has made all

the viability of proportional fines. The results

reasonable bona fide efforts to pay the fine and

were largely promising. A RAND study of day-

yet cannot do so through no fault of his own, it

fines in Arizona’s Maricopa County focused on

is fundamentally unfair to revoke probation

people convicted of felonies “with low need for

automatically without considering whether

supervision and treatment.” It found that day-

adequate alternative methods of punishing the

fines successfully diverted people from standard

probationer are available to meet the State’s

“supervision probation” and increased payment

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 19

without negative consequences in arrests and

Binswanger, I.A., Krueger, P.M., and Steiner, J.F.

technical violations (Turner and Greene, 1999).

2009. “Prevalence of Chronic Medical Conditions

Another study of the efficacy of day-fines in low-

among Jail and Prison Inmates in the U.S.A.

level courts in Milwaukee and Staten Island found

Compared with the General Population.” Journal

similarly positive results (Greene and Worzella,

of Epidemiology and Community Health 63(11):

1992). In sum, these valuable experiences, drawn

912-919.

from the European context and in parts of the U.S.
as well, provide reasons to be optimistic as they

Burch, T.R. 2011. “Fixing the Broken System of

indicate that by taking both offense severity and

Financial Sanctions.” Criminology and Public

ability to pay into account, the day-fine model

Policy 10(3): 539-545.

or an equivalent could help to address the most
pressing concerns regarding our current system
of CJFOs.

References

Bureau of Justice Statistics. n.d. Drug and Crime
Facts. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Burnett, R. “State of Florida Has Weak Restitution-

American Civil Liberties Union. 2010. In for a

Recovery Rates, Too.” Orlando Sentinel, June 19,

Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtors’ Prisons.

2012.

New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union.
Bushway, S.D., and Sweeten, G. 2007. “Abolish
Bannon, A., Nagrecha, M., and Diller, R. 2010.

Lifetime Bans for Ex-Felons.” Criminology and

Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry. New

Public Policy 6: 697-706.

York, NY: Brennan Center for Justice.
Cammett, A. 2006. Expanding Collateral
Beckett, K., and Harris, A. 2011. “On Cash and

Sanctions: The Hidden Costs of Aggressive Child

Conviction: Money Sanctions as Misguided

Support Enforcement Against Incarcerated

Policy.” Criminology and Public Policy 10(3):

Parents. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law &

509-537.

Policy 13(2).

Beckett, K., Harris, A., and Evans, H. 2008. The

Carey, C.A. 2004. “No Second Chance: People

Assessment and Consequences of Legal Financial

with Criminal Records Denied Access to Public

Obligations in Washington State. Olympia,

Housing.” University of Toledo Law Review 36: 545.

WA: Washington State Minority and Justice
Commission.

Conference of State Court Administrators. n.d.
“2011-2012 Policy Paper: Courts Are Not Revenue
Centers.” Williamsburg, VA: Conference of State
Court Administrators.

20 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

Criminal Court of the City of New York. 2014. 2013

Frase, R.S. 2001. Sentencing in Germany and

Annual Report. New York, NY: Office of the Chief

the United States: Comparing Äpfel with Apples.

Clerk of New York City Criminal Court.

Freiburg, Germany: Max Planck Institute for
Foreign and International Criminal Law.

Dale, M.W. 1976. “Barriers to the Rehabilitation
of Ex-Offenders.” Crime and Delinquency 22:

Garland, D. 2001. The Culture of Control: Crime

322-337.

and Social Order in Contemporary Society.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

deVuono-powell, S., Schweidler, C., Walters, A.,
and Zohrabi, A. 2015. Who Pays? The True Cost

Gordon, M.A., and Glaser, D. 1991. “The Use

of Incarceration on Families. Oakland, CA: Ella

and Effects of Financial Penalties in Municipal

Baker Center, Forward Together, Research Action

Courts.” Criminology 29: 651-676.

Design.
Government Accountability Office. 2015. State
Dickman, M. 2009. “Should Crime Pay? A

and Local Governments’ Fiscal Outlook: 2014

Critical Assessment of the Mandatory Victims

Update. Washington, DC: U.S. Government

Restitution Act of 1996.” California Law Review

Accountability Office.

97(6): 1687-1718.
Grall, T.S. 2003. Custodial Mothers and Fathers
Diller, R. 2010. The Hidden Costs of Florida’s

and Their Child Support, 2001. Washington, DC:

Criminal Justice Fees. New York, NY: Brennan

U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and

Center for Justice.

Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau.

Eckhoff, J. “Offenders Owe $140 Million in

Greene, J., and Worzella, C. 1992. Day Fines

New Debt to Iowa Victims Over 5 years.” The

in American Courts: The Staten Island and

Indianapolis Star, July 15, 2012.

Milwaukee Experiments, edited by D.C. McDonald.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,

Eisen, L.-B. 2015. Charging Inmates Perpetuates

National Institute of Justice.

Mass Incarceration. New York, NY: Brennan
Center for Justice.

Harris, A., Evans, H., and Beckett, K. 2010.
“Drawing Blood from Stones: Legal Debt and

Evans, D.N. 2014. The Debt Penalty: Exposing the

Social Inequality in the Contemporary United

Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration. New

States.” American Journal of Sociology 115(6):

York, NY: John Jay College of Criminal Justice,

1753-1799.

Research and Evaluation Center.

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 21

Henry, J.S., and Jacobs, J.B. 2007. “Ban the Box to

Langan, P. 1994. “Between Prison and Probation:

Promote Ex-Offender Employment.” Criminology

Intermediate Sanctions.” Science 264: 791-793.

and Public Policy 6(4): 755.
Law yers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the
Hillsman, S.T., and Mahoney, B. 1988. “Collecting

San Francisco Bay Area. 2015. Not Just a

and Enforcing Criminal Fines: A Review of Court

Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive

Processes, Practices, and Problems.” Justice

Inequality in California. Available online:

System Journal 13(1): 17-36.

http://w w w.lccr.com/w p-content/uploads/
Not-Just-a-Ferguson-Problem-How-Traffic­

Jannetta, J., Breaux, J., Ho, H., and Porter, J. 2014.

Courts-Drive-Inequality-in-California-4.20.15.

Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities in

pdf.

Probation Revocation: Summary Findings and
Implications from a Multisite Study. Washington,

L o b o s c o , K . “ M a n A r r e s t e d b y U. S .

DC: Urban Institute.

Marshals for Unpaid Student Loan.” CNN,
February 17, 2016. Available online: http://

Justice Management Institute and Vera Institute

m o ne y.c n n .c om /2 016/0 2/16/p f /c ol le g e/

of Justice. 1996. How To Use Structured Fines (Day

arrested-student-loan-marshals/.

Fines) as an Intermediate Sanction. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice

Lopoo, L.M., and Western, B. 2005. “Incarceration

Assistance.

and the Formation and Stability of Marital
Unions.” Journal of Marriage and Family 67(3):

Kantorowicz, E. 2014. “Day-Fines: Should the

721-734.

Rich Pay More?” Rotterdam Institute of Law and
Economics. Working Paper Series No. 2014/12.

Mallik-Kane, K., and Visher, C. 2008. Health and
Prisoner Reentry: How Physical, Mental, and

Karberg, J., and James, D. 2005. Substance

Substance Abuse Conditions Shape the Process of

Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates,

Reintegration. Washington, DC: Urban Institute

2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,

Press.

Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Manza, J., and Uggen, C. 2006. Locked Out: Felon
Katzenstein, M.F., and Nagrecha, M. 2011. “A

Disenfranchisement and American Democracy.

New Punishment Regime.” Criminology & Public

New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Policy 10: 555-568.

22 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

Martin, K. 2015. “Criminal Justice Debt: Costs &

Mumola, C., and Karberg, J. 2006. Drug Use and

Consequences.” Working Paper. New York, NY:

Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004.

City University of New York, John Jay College of

Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,

Criminal Justice.

Bureau of Justice Statistics.

May, B.E. 1995. “The Character Component of

Nagrecha, M., and Katzenstein, M.F. 2015. When

Occupational Licensing Laws: A Continuing

All Else Fails, Fining the Family: First Person

Ba r r ier to t he E x-Felon’s E mploy ment

Accounts of Criminal Justice Debt. Brooklyn, NY:

Opportunities.” North Dakota Law Review 71: 187.

Center for Community Alternatives.

McLean, R., and Thompson, M. 2007. Repaying

National Center for Victims of Crime. 2011.

Debts. New York, N Y: Cou nci l of State

Making Restitution Real: Five Case Studies on

Governments Justice Center.

Improving Restitution Collection. Washington,
DC: National Center for Victims of Crime.

Meredith, M., and Morse, M. 2015. “Discretionary
Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial

National Research Council. 2014. The Growth

Obligations.” Working Paper. Philadelphia, PA:

of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring

University of Pennsylvania.

Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The
National Academies Press.

Minnesota Restitution Working Group. 2015.
Report to the Legislature. St. Paul, MN: Office

Nieto, M. 2006. Who Pays for Penalty Assessment

of Justice Programs, Minnesota Department of

Programs in California? Sacramento, CA:

Public Safety.

California Research Bureau.

Mitchell, O., and MacKenzie, D. 2004. “The

Office for Victims of Crime. 2013. Crime Victims

Relationship between Race, Ethnicity, Sentencing

Fund: Victim Compensation. Available online:

Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis of Sentencing

http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/crimevictimsfundfs/.

Research.” Final report to National Institute
of Justice (grant number 2002-IJ-CX-0020).

Olivares, K.M., Burton, V.X., Jr., and Cullen, F.

Available online: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/

1996. “The Collateral Consequences of a Felony

nij/grants/208129.pdf.

Conviction: A National Study of State Legal Codes
10 Years Later.” Federal Probation 60(3): 10-17.

Morris, N., and Tonry, M. 1990. Between Prison
and Probation: Intermediate Punishments in a

Pager, D. 2003. “The Mark of a Criminal Record.”

Rational Sentencing System. New York, NY: Oxford

American Journal of Sociology 108: 937-975.

University Press.

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 23

Pager, D. 2007. Marked: Race, Crime and Finding

Rodriguez, M., and Avery, R. 2016. “Ban the Box:

Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Chicago, IL:

U.S. Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring

University of Chicago Press.

Policies.” Washington, DC: National Employment
Law Project.

Pearson, J. 2004. “Building Debt While Doing
Time: Child Support and Incarceration.” Judges’

Rosenthal, A., and Weissman, M. 2007. Sentencing

Journal 43: 4.

for Dollars: The Financial Consequences of a
Criminal Conviction. Working Paper. Syracuse,

Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate

NY: Center for Community Alternatives, Justice

and the Center for Schools and Communities.

Strategies.

2013. Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force
Final Report. Harrisburg, PA: Commonwealth of

Rosich, K.J. 2007. Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal

Pennsylvania, Office of the Victim Advocate.

Justice System. Washington, DC: American
Sociological Association. Available online: http://

Petersilia, J. 2003. When Prisoners Come Home:

www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/images/

Parole and Prisoner Reentry. New York, NY:

press/docs/pdf/ASARaceCrime.pdf.

Oxford University Press.
Rothman, D.J. 1980. Conscience and Convenience:
Petersilia, J., and Turner, S. 1993. “Intensive

The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive

Probation and Parole.” In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime

America. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

and Justice: A Review of Research (vol. 17, pp. 281­
335). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ruback, R.B., and Bergstrom, M. 2006. “Economic
Sanctions in Criminal Justice: Purposes, Effects,

Rainville, G., and Reaves, B. 2003. Felony

and Implications.” Criminal Justice and Behavior

Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2000.

33 (2): 242-273.

Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Shapiro, J. “Supreme Court Ruling Not Enough To
Prevent Debtors Prisons.” National Public Radio,

Raphael, S., and Stoll, M.A. 2013. Why Are So

May 21, 2014.

Many Americans in Prison? New York, NY: Russell
Sage Foundation.

Siegel, L., and Senna, J. 2007. Essentials of Criminal
Justice. Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.

Rich, J.D., Wakeman, S.E., and Dickman, S.L. 2011.
“Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration
in the United States.” New England Journal of
Medicine 364(22): 2081-2083.

24 | New Thinking in Community Corrections

Spohn, C. 2000. “Thirty Years of Sentencing

Travis, J., and Petersilia, J. 2001. “Reentr y

Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral

Reconsidered: A New Look at an Old Question.”

Sentencing Process.” Criminal Justice 3: 427­

Crime and Delinquency 47: 291-313.

501. Available online: https://www.ncjrs.gov/
criminal_justice2000/vol_3/03i.pdf.

Turner, S., and Greene, J. 1999. “The FARE
Probation Experiment: Implementation and

Starr, S.B., and Rehavi, M.M. 2012. “Racial

Outcomes of Day Fines for Felony Offenders in

Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and

Maricopa County.” Justice System Journal 21(1):

Its Sentencing Consequences.” Universit y

1-21.

of Michigan Law School. Program in Law &
Economics Working Paper Series No. 2012/2.

Tyler, T., and Huo, Y.J. 2002. Trust in the Law:
Encouraging Public Cooperation with the

Taylor, M. 2014. Restructuring the Court-Ordered

Police and Courts. New York, NY: Russell Sage

Debt Collection Process. Sacramento, CA: Legislate

Foundation.

Analyst’s Office. Available online: http://www.
lao.ca.gov/reports/2014/criminal-justice/debt­

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

collection/court-ordered-debt-collection-111014.pdf.

Administration for Children and Families,
Office of Child Support Enforcement. 2006.

Texas District Court. 2013. Texas District Clerk’s

Incarceration, Reentry and Child Support Issues,

Felony Court Cost Chart – 09/01/2013. Available

National and State Overview. Washington, DC:

online: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/681164/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

dc-felctcst090113.pdf.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
Thoennes, N. 2002. Child Support Profile:

2015. Investigation of the Ferguson Police

Massachusetts Incarcerated and Paroled Parents.

Department. Washington, DC: U.S. Department

Denver, CO: Center for Policy Research.

of Justice.

Thompson, A.C. 2004. “Navigating the Hidden

U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office

Obstacles to Ex-Offender Reentry.” Boston College

for United States Attorneys. 2014. United States

Law Review 45(2): 255-306.

Attorneys’ Statistical Report Fiscal Year 2014. Table
8C, p. 80. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of

Trav is, J. 2000. But They All Come Back:
Rethinking Prisoner Reentry. Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of
Justice.

Justice.

Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create | 25

U.S. Sentencing Commission. 2015. Sourcebook

Wheeler, G.R., Hissong, R.V., Slusher, M.P., and

2015. Table 15: Offenders Receiving Fines and

Macan, T.M. 1990. “Economic Sanctions in

Restitution in Each Primary Offense Category,

Criminal Justice: Dilemma for Human Service?”

Fiscal Year 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Sentencing

Justice System Journal 14: 63-77.

Commission.
Wodahl, E.J., and Garland, B. 2009. “The Evolution
Vera Institute of Justice. 1988. The Staten Island

of Community Corrections: The Enduring

Economic Sanctions Project: Day Fine Workbook.

Influence of the Prison.” The Prison Journal 89(1):

New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice.

81S-104S.

Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services. 2012.

Author Note

2012 Annual Report. Waterbury, VT: Vermont
Center for Crime Victim Services.
Vogel, C. “Crime Doesn’t Pay(back): A Houston
Press Specia l Repor t on Cou r t-Ordered
Restitutions in Texas.” Houston Press, December
3, 2008.
Wacquant, L. 2009. Punishing the Poor: The
Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Waldfogel, J. 1994. “The Effect of Criminal
Conviction on Income and the Trust ‘Reposed in
the Workmen.’ ” The Journal of Human Resources
29(1): 62-81.
Western, B. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in
America. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Western, B., Lopoo, I., and McLanahan, S. 2004.
“Incarceration and the Bonds among Parents
in Fragile Families.” In M. Pattillo, D. Weiman,
and B. Western (Eds.), Imprisoning America: The
Social Effects of Mass Incarceration (pp. 21-45).
New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Karin D. Martin is Assistant Professor of Public
Management at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice and The Graduate Center, City University
of New York.
Sandra Susan Smith is Assistant Professor of
Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Wendy Still is the Chief Probation Officer in
Alameda County, California.
This report was prepared for Harvard Kennedy
School’s Executive Session on Community
Corrections, 2013 to 2016. We thank members
of the Session for constructive comments
and suggestions. We also thank Jasper Frank
and Kendra Bradner for very helpful research
assistance. Please direct correspondence to Karin
Martin (kamartin@jjay.cuny.edu) and Sandra
Smith (sandra_smith@berkeley.edu).

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs

PRESORTED STANDARD
POSTAGE & FEES PAID
DOJ/NIJ/GPO
PERMIT NO. G – 26

*NCJ~249976*


National Institute of Justice
8660 Cherry Lane
Laurel, MD 20707-4651
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

Members of the Executive Session on Community Corrections
Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO, Roca, Inc.
Kendra Bradner (Facilitator), Project
Coordinator, Program in Criminal Justice
Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy
School
Barbara Broderick, Chief Probation Officer,
Maricopa County Probation Adult Probation
Department
Douglas Burris, Chief Probation Officer,
United States District Court, The Eastern
District of Missouri, Probation
John Chisholm, District Attorney,
Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office
George Gascón, District Attorney, San
Francisco District Attorney’s Office
Adam Gelb, Director, Public Safety
Performance Project, The Pew Charitable
Trusts
Susan Herman, Deputy Commissioner for
Collaborative Policing, New York City Police
Department
Michael Jacobson, Director, Institute for
State and Local Governance; Professor,
Sociology Department, Graduate Center,
City University of New York
Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge, Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals

Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime;
Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas
Public Policy Foundation
Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder,
JustLeadershipUSA
Anne Milgram, Senior Fellow, New York
University School of Law
Jason Myers, Sheriff, Marion County
Sheriff’s Office
Michael Nail, Commissioner, Georgia
Department of Community Supervision
James Pugel, Chief Deputy Sheriff,
Washington King County Sheriff’s
Department
Steven Raphael, Professor, Goldman
School of Public Policy, University of
California, Berkeley
Nancy Rodriguez, Director, National
Institute of Justice
Vincent N. Schiraldi, Senior Research
Fellow, Program in Criminal Justice Policy
and Management, Harvard Kennedy School
Sandra Susan Smith, Associate Professor,
Department of Sociology, University of
California, Berkeley

Wendy S. Still, Chief Probation Officer,
Alameda County, California
John Tilley, Secretary, Kentucky Justice
and Public Safety Cabinet
Steven W. Tompkins, Sheriff,
Massachusetts Suffolk County Sheriff’s
Department
Harold Dean Trulear, Director, Healing
Communities; Associate Professor of
Applied Theology, Howard University School
of Divinity
Vesla Weaver, Assistant Professor of
African American Studies and Political
Science, Yale University, Institution for
Social and Policy Studies
Bruce Western, Faculty Chair, Program in
Criminal Justice Policy and Management,
Harvard Kennedy School; Daniel and
Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal
Justice, Harvard University
John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections,
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Ana Yáñez-Correa, Program Officer for
Criminal Justice, Public Welfare Foundation

Amy Solomon, Director of Policy, Office
of Justice Programs, U.S. Department
of Justice; Executive Director, Federal
Interagency Reentry Council

Learn more about the Executive Session at:
www.NIJ.gov, keywords “Executive Session Community Corrections”
www.hks.harvard.edu, keywords “Executive Session Community Corrections”
NCJ 249976

 

 

The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct Side
Advertise here
Federal Prison Handbook - Side