Research on the Implications of Financial Sanctions for Justice Policy

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Contemporary Politics and Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 19299

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Criminology and Justice Studies, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
Interests: corrections, re-entry & community supervision; comparative & international criminology; drug treatment in corrections; gang violence; risk & needs assessment; sentencing; experimental & field research

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Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ 08102, USA
Interests: corrections and sentencing; financial sanctions and debt; prisoner reentry; desistance from crime; mental/physical health; crime/recidivism control strategies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As many countries move to limit or reduce the size of prison populations or to develop more adaptable punishment policies, noncustodial sanctions have taken a more prominent role in punishment policy. As a result, financial sanctions, including fines and restitution, are more prevalent now than ever before. In some cases, though such sanctions may serve as a viable alternative to more overtly punitive sanctions such as incarceration, emerging research has shown that they may also increase disparities based on wealth or socioeconomic status. Other financial penalties such as supervision fees are used to generate revenue or to offset the costs of administering the justice system. Finally, there is a high degree of variability in how and why financial sanctions are levied, both within and between local- and national-level jurisdictions. In this issue, we seek to explore new empirical research related to these issues, with an emphasis on better understanding the justice, social, and economic impacts on people, places, and communities.

Dr. Jordan Hyatt
Dr. Nathan Link
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • fees
  • fines
  • restitution
  • monetary sanctions
  • legal financial obligations
  • punishment
  • probation
  • collateral consequences
  • sentencing

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

16 pages, 1540 KiB  
Article
Understanding the Burden of Legal Financial Obligations on Indigent Washingtonians
by Maria Katarina E. Rafael and Chris Mai
Soc. Sci. 2022, 11(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11010017 - 6 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2287
Abstract
In criminal courts across the country, judges assess a variety of fines, fees and other legal financial obligations (LFOs) that many defendants struggle to pay. This paper examines the disproportionate burden that fine and fee assessment and collection practices impose on low-income, system-involved [...] Read more.
In criminal courts across the country, judges assess a variety of fines, fees and other legal financial obligations (LFOs) that many defendants struggle to pay. This paper examines the disproportionate burden that fine and fee assessment and collection practices impose on low-income, system-involved individuals, using administrative court data for criminal cases filed in Washington’s courts of limited jurisdiction between 2015 and 2020. The authors find that the majority of defendants do not or only partially pay their LFOs, but that these observations are more pronounced for indigent defendants. The authors also find that, of defendants who fully pay off their fines and fees, individuals with a public defender satisfy their debt after a greater number of days, as compared to individuals with private counsel. This is all in spite of public defender defendants generally being assessed smaller amounts in fines and fees at the outset. Additionally, the authors uncover that when defendants do pay off all of their fines and fees, they tend to do so on the day of assessment, with the likelihood of satisfying full payment generally decreasing as time goes on. These findings suggest that many people struggle with criminal justice debt, but that this problem disproportionately impacts indigent Washingtonians, subjecting them to a greater possibility of harm through the various methods of collections enforcement. Full article
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22 pages, 319 KiB  
Article
Legal Financial Obligations and Probation: Findings from the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation
by Marshall L. White and William J. Sabol
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(12), 450; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10120450 - 24 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1735
Abstract
During the late 20th century, imprisonment rates in the United States saw unprecedented growth, leading correctional systems across the country to face widespread overcrowding and underfunding. Subsequently, policy makers sought out alternatives to incarceration for certain categories of offenses. Community supervision, such as [...] Read more.
During the late 20th century, imprisonment rates in the United States saw unprecedented growth, leading correctional systems across the country to face widespread overcrowding and underfunding. Subsequently, policy makers sought out alternatives to incarceration for certain categories of offenses. Community supervision, such as probation, emerged as a popular solution to both reduce prison and jail populations as well as to generate revenue to fund the rapidly expanding legal system. With the rise in community supervision came increases in the number of people on probation for lower-level and non-violent offenses. The expansion of legal financial obligations (LFO) placed additional burdens on these persons, who disproportionately sit in lower socio-economic status brackets. Using data from the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation (SAP), the current study adds to the literature on probation and LFOs in an important way. The SAP data contain information on the amount, frequency, and type of LFO. Thus, this paper examines the distinct types of LFOs to determine the differential burden that each type of LFO has on people on probation. This paper finds that of all types of fees, those associated with victim restitution are most likely to lead to missed payments, while those that generate revenues do not contribute significantly to missed payments. This paper discusses the implications of this for procedural justice and fairness. Full article
14 pages, 593 KiB  
Article
Gender and Financialization of the Criminal Justice System
by Lisa Servon, Ava Esquier and Gillian Tiley
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(11), 446; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110446 - 22 Nov 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 6422
Abstract
(1) The increase in women’s mass incarceration over the past forty years raises questions about how justice-involved women experience the financial aspects of the criminal justice system. (2) We conducted in-depth interviews with twenty justice-involved women and seven criminal law and reentry professionals, [...] Read more.
(1) The increase in women’s mass incarceration over the past forty years raises questions about how justice-involved women experience the financial aspects of the criminal justice system. (2) We conducted in-depth interviews with twenty justice-involved women and seven criminal law and reentry professionals, and conducted courtroom observations in southeastern Pennsylvania. (3) The results from this exploratory research reveal that women’s roles as caregivers, their greater health needs, and higher likelihood of being poor creates barriers to paying fines and fees and exacerbates challenges in reentry. (4) These challenges contribute to a cycle of prolonged justice involvement and financial instability. Full article
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25 pages, 2552 KiB  
Article
Costs and Consequences of Traffic Fines and Fees: A Case Study of Open Warrants in Las Vegas, Nevada
by Foster Kamanga, Virginia Smercina, Barbara G. Brents, Daniel Okamura and Vincent Fuentes
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(11), 440; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110440 - 19 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2869
Abstract
Traffic stops and tickets often have far-reaching consequences for poor and marginalized communities, yet resulting fines and fees increasingly fund local court systems. This paper critically explores who bears the brunt of traffic fines and fees in Nevada, historically one of the fastest [...] Read more.
Traffic stops and tickets often have far-reaching consequences for poor and marginalized communities, yet resulting fines and fees increasingly fund local court systems. This paper critically explores who bears the brunt of traffic fines and fees in Nevada, historically one of the fastest growing and increasingly diverse states in the nation, and one of thirteen US states to prosecute minor traffic violations as criminal misdemeanors rather than civil infractions. Drawing on legislative histories, we find that state legislators in Nevada increased fines and fees to raise revenues. Using descriptive statistics to analyze the 2012–2020 open arrest warrants extracted from the Las Vegas Municipal Court, we find that 58.6% of all open warrants are from failure to pay tickets owing to administrative-related offenses—vehicle registration and maintenance, no license or plates, or no insurance. Those issued warrants for failure to pay are disproportionately for people who are Black and from the poorest areas in the region. Ultimately, the Nevada system of monetary traffic sanctions criminalizes poverty and reinforces racial disparities. Full article
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16 pages, 292 KiB  
Article
Who Pays? Measuring Differences in the Process of Repayment of Legal Financial Obligations
by Kathleen Powell
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(11), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110433 - 10 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2413
Abstract
This study identifies the correlates of legal financial obligation (LFO) debt repayment among persons sentenced to probation and transferred to a specialized collections unit. Using bivariate tests and logistic regression, results indicate that starting balance amounts, monthly payment amounts, and enforcement actions (capias [...] Read more.
This study identifies the correlates of legal financial obligation (LFO) debt repayment among persons sentenced to probation and transferred to a specialized collections unit. Using bivariate tests and logistic regression, results indicate that starting balance amounts, monthly payment amounts, and enforcement actions (capias warrant) are the strongest influences on the likelihood of full debt repayment. These results indicate that some persons will struggle to repay their LFO balances if amounts assessed are in excess of their means, even in an institutional context adopting an individualized, flexible, and non-punitive approach to collections. Policy implications suggest a need for reform at the point of LFO assessment to avoid imposing obligations that are unreasonable to individuals’ ability to repay. Full article
17 pages, 618 KiB  
Article
Out with “Fine Time,” in with Financial Waivers: Recent Developments in Massachusetts Probation Fines and Fees Policies
by Matheson Sanchez and Shytierra Gaston
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(10), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10100391 - 14 Oct 2021
Viewed by 2440
Abstract
The criminal justice system routinely imposes financial sanctions on probation clients. These fines, fees, and restitution debts often amount to more than what many clients can reasonably afford to pay. Until recently, Massachusetts courts have incarcerated clients solely for their inability to pay [...] Read more.
The criminal justice system routinely imposes financial sanctions on probation clients. These fines, fees, and restitution debts often amount to more than what many clients can reasonably afford to pay. Until recently, Massachusetts courts have incarcerated clients solely for their inability to pay these debts in a practice known as “fine time”. In 2018, the state passed a landmark criminal justice reform bill that restricted the types of cases in which fine time can be ordered. Clients that can establish that payment would lead to financial hardship can now petition the court for a financial waiver accompanied by community service. The current study seeks to explore the implications of the recent reform efforts on probation services by analyzing surveys gathered from a sample of 121 Massachusetts probation officers in 2020. Descriptive findings of officers’ attitudes toward fines and fees, responses to nonpayment by clients, and the use of financial waivers are presented. Officers’ perceptions and practices align with the recent reform efforts, suggesting support among probation personnel for policies that limit punitive responses to nonpayment of legal debts by their supervisees. Possible directions for future research and policy development are discussed. Full article
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