Fines, Fees & The Pandemic

22 million people are now unemployed. Most had jobs just a short time ago. Before the pandemic, there were those who championed reform of fines and fees in the criminal justice system. Even now reforms are happening. Ramsey County Minnesota took a very big step to eliminate many fees, even at a time when the county & court leaders knew that budget challenges lay ahead. But all is not well:

“Pandemic means death, taxes and court fees. Across the country, trials have been postponed, hearings canceled and courthouses closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. But that hasn’t stopped court officials and the police from enforcing obligations to pay outstanding court fines and fees as state and local budgets dry up. In Louisiana, that means drive-thru debt-payment locations at an old bank. In Oklahoma, it means arrests for unpaid debts. In Arizona, it means the government is keeping tax refunds. More bad news? The pressure on local officials to collect these fees will increase as budgets fall further behind. The good news? Some jurisdictions, like Maine and California, have stopped trying to collect some past due amounts. TMP’s Eli Hager has our story. THE MARSHALL PROJECT

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