Those who commit crimes should be accountable to victims and their communities. The role of the justice system is to determine a fair and impartial resolution on behalf of society. However, legal financial obligations resulting from criminal justice involvement (including fines, fees, and costs) may undermine these very goals. The current landscape of legal financial obligations has come under heightened scrutiny in recent months and years, particularly in light of the findings of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. These findings and other sources report justice agencies focused on maximizing revenue, rather than public safety and rehabilitation; people being incarcerated for failing to pay despite inability to do so; and racial and ethnic disparity in the impacts of criminal justice debt. Currently, little is known about the extent to which government agencies rely on fines and fees, whether it is cost beneficial to fund efforts to collect fines and fees; and the extent and effects of fines and fees on justice-involved individuals.
This program will make make available site-based grants and technical assistance available for state and local government agencies to implement innovative approaches to addressing the common barriers to equitable systems of legal financial obligations.