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Revenue Over Public Safety

How Perverse Financial Incentives Warp the Criminal Justice System

This is a virtual event
  • Carmen Best
  • ,
  • Lisa Foster
  • ,
  • Ram Subramanian
  • ,
  • Que Williams
  • Laura Coates
Perverse Incentives

Many Americans now recognize mass incarceration as an urgent social problem, and bipartisan efforts to rein in the criminal justice system have taken off around the country. Yet jail and prison populations remain stubbornly high.

One reason why is that officials have deep financial stakes in extending the reach of the criminal justice system. Municipalities and law enforcement agencies collect fines and fees, seize private property, and rent out jail space. Police, meanwhile, are professionally rewarded for issuing tickets and making arrests while prosecutors benefit professionally and politically from securing long sentences rather than exercising leniency. With so much money at stake, it’s little wonder that reforms have been stymied.

Join us for a live event on July 6 at 1 p.m. ET for a discussion of the comprehensive approach that Congress, state legislatures, local governments, and law enforcement agencies must take to unravel these perverse financial incentives. Led by moderator Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst, the panel includes Lisa Foster, the co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center; Carmen Best, the former police chief of Seattle; Que Williams, a paralegal and civil advocate of ArchCity Defenders; and Ram Subramanian, the managing director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. The panelists will discuss the new Brennan Center report Revenue Over Public Safety and expand on ways to truly fix the criminal justice system.

This event is produced in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation.


The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Requests for accommodations for events and services should be submitted at least two weeks if possible before the date of the accommodation need. Please email or call 646–925–8728 for assistance.

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