Across the country, city and county leaders are advancing bold reforms to ensure their fines, fees, and tickets do not place a disproportionate burden on residents living on low incomes and people of color. These local leaders have found that fines and fees that exceed residents’ ability to pay are often a lose-lose, for people and for government.
To seize on this emerging momentum for change, PolicyLink, the San Francisco Financial Justice Project, and the Fines and Fees Justice Center have established Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, a national leadership network of local places committed to meaningful fine and fee reform, that works better for people and for government.
In May 2020 we announced ten jurisdictions that formed the inaugural cohort of this leadership network pursuing bold, innovative solutions to reform unjust fines and fees. These teams have now completed internal assessments, engaged members of their local communities to hear about their experiences and priorities, and have used this input to identify priority areas for fine and fee reform in their jurisdictions, including the following:
- Eliminating driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of fines and fees
- Eliminating and reforming unjust jail fees, including markups on phone calls and commissary items
- Reducing and eliminating municipal fines, including reforms to warrants, and reducing or eliminating criminal administrative fees
- Reducing parking and traffic fines and towing fees
- Creating more just practices for payment plans
Through Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, these local government teams are engaging with experts and peers from across the country to advance cutting-edge policies and catalyze a national movement to advance equitable fine and fee reform. You can learn more about what cities and counties will do as part of the network and find examples of fine and fee reforms across the country in the Roadmap To Equitable Fine and Fee Reform.
Resources for Fine and Fee Reform
The Roadmap to Equitable Fine and Fee Reform, shares approaches and practices to advance fine and fee reform. This guide is a distillation of the curriculum provided through the Network, and we hope will provide insights and direction for anyone hoping to advance reform in their cities and counties.
Watch webinars from the Network that share practices to advance fine and fee reform:
- Conducting a Fine and Fee Assessment Part 1 — Engaging Community
- Conducting a Fine and Fees Assessment Part 2 — Gathering Information from Government Stakeholders
- Effective Communications Strategy and Messaging
- Analyzing the Fiscal and Budgetary Impact of Fines and Fees and Related Reforms
- Centering Racial Equity in Fine and Fee Reform
- Evictions and Housing Policy during COVID 19
For more information about Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, contact us at CCFFJ@policylink.org.
About the Partners:
The San Francisco Financial Justice Project (FJP) is the nation’s first effort embedded in government to assess and reform fines, fees, and financial penalties disproportionately impacting low-income residents and communities of color. Working with community organizations, advocates, city and county departments, and courts, FJP has spearheaded the elimination or reduction of dozens of fines and fees and lifted millions of dollars in debt off of tens of thousands of local residents. The Project’s accomplishments are listed here, and here is a guide to available fine and fee discounts for San Francisco low-income residents.
The Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) seeks to catalyze a movement to eliminate the fines and fees that distort justice. FFJC’s goal is to eliminate fees in the justice system and to ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced. FFJC provides resources, makes critical connections, offers strategic advice, and serves as a hub for the fines and fees reform movement, working with impacted communities, researchers, advocates, legislators, justice system stakeholders, and media all across America. For more information on fines and fees work around the country please see the searchable FFJC Clearinghouse here.
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works. Over the last several years, PolicyLink has worked to educate advocates and government leaders about the harmful impact of fines and fees on low-income communities, particularly those of color. PolicyLink is a leading proponent of the Families Over Fees Act (also known as California Senate Bill 144), potentially groundbreaking legislation that would eliminate virtually all criminal fees in California. PolicyLink is also a steering committee member of Debt Free Justice California, a statewide coalition committed to ending criminal legal system policies that disproportionately penalize low-income people.