Eliminating Fines and Fees

Fines and fees have devastated the lives of millions of Americans, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and punishment — with the harms overwhelmingly falling on communities living on low incomes and people of color. 

More than $50 billion in debt is currently being held by approximately 10 million people because of their involvement in the criminal justice system. Much of this debt is because people simply do not have the money to pay fines and fees.

State and local governments can support residents by eliminating fines and fees, and by creating sustainable ways to balance their budgets that don’t put the burden on residents. Recently, some states, counties, and cities have passed important reforms to make their fines and fees more fair and just. And, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, numerous state and local governments and courts are taking emergency measures to change their criminal, traffic and municipal ordinance policies to ensure that fines and fees are not a barrier to people’s basic needs throughout this emergency.

We partner with impacted people, grassroots organizations, advocates, and governments to end the use of fines and fees, a system of wealth extraction that directly contributes to burdensome debt, creates barriers to housing and employment, and criminalizes poverty.

Our Work

JUST LAUNCHED: National Network to Reform Unjust Fines and Fees

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 people of color and people living on low wages. Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice is a national leadership network of municipalities committed to meaningful fine and fee reform, which works better for people and for government, established by PolicyLink, The San Francisco Financial Justice Project, and the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

The Network recently announced ten cities and counties championing local reforms that will make a difference in the lives of struggling residents and advance racial equity. (Public launch Tuesday, May 25) 

DEBT FREE JUSTICE CALIFORNIA

PolicyLink serves as a steering committee member on Debt Free Justice California — a multiregional, California-based coalition working to reform criminal fines and fees through the state.

Debt Free Justice California brings together community organizations, advocates, government partners, and impacted people from across the state to eliminate high pain, low gain administrative fees charged to people exiting the criminal justice system.