New National Report on Fines, Costs, Restitution Proposes Solutions to "Debt Penalty"

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Monday - August 10, 2015.

Researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research & Evaluation Center have just published an in-depth report titled "The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration." The report explores the various types of fines, fees, restitution and other financial obligations placed on offenders, the purposes of these obligations, the various approaches employed to collect on these debts, reasons offenders don't pay, the penalties associated with non-payment, the hidden costs to both the legal system and offenders of common debt collection practices, and the effects of criminal debt, including a variety of consequences related to employment, education, housing and other aspects of life for offenders upon release from incarceration.  

The report also explores connections between criminal debt and recidivism.

The report provides statistics and information from various states around the US (including some from Pennsylvania)

The report then proposes a variety of solutions that criminal justice entities can employ to "increase the likelihood of payment whil lessening the financial burden on offenders." These solutions include improved practices for setting fee amounts, prioritization of fees, tracking debt, improving restitution collection, improving child suppport collection, processes for offenders to "earn back" their eligibility for certain types of public assistance, and alternatives to incarceration for non-payment.

An executive summary is available at: 

http://www.justicefellowship.org/sites/default/files/The%20Debt%20Penalty_Executive%20Summary_Justice%20Fellowship.pdf

The full, 20-page report is available here:

http://justicefellowship.org/sites/default/files/The%20Debt%20Penalty_John%20Jay_August%202014.pdf