Washington, D.C. – Attorney General Jeff Sessions nullified a letter yesterday issued by the Obama-era Justice Department that provided resources for local court officials to reform practices around criminal justice fees and fines, which have contributed to the problem of mass incarceration in America. It’s the latest in a series of decisions by Sessions and the Trump Administration that have undercut commonsense, reform-oriented moves in recent years.
“This is a disappointing decision that supports criminalizing poverty,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel in the Brenan Center’s Justice Program and author of Charging Inmates Perpetuates Mass Incarceration. “Fees and fines are frequently levied against individuals who can’t afford to pay. It’s a perverse, profit-based framework that helps spin the revolving door of the criminal justice system.”
The Brennan Center’s library of work on criminal justice debt was cited extensively in the March 2016 guidance, which went to state court administrators and chief justices across the country. It highlighted a 2010 report on how criminal justice debt is a barrier to successful reentry, as well as Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action; Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Jails; a case study from Maryland; and, research on concerning fees and fines practices in Florida.
For more information, or to schedule an interview with an expert on fees and fines reform, contact Rebecca Autrey at 646–292–8316 or Rebecca.Autrey@nyu.edu.