REFORM FINES, FEES, AND BAIL
With over 80 percent of people in prison classified as indigent, mass incarceration disproportionately affects the poor. The expanding use of monetary payments such as fines, fees, and bail punishes poorer defendants far more than wealthier defendants.
Jurisdictions have increasingly turned to fines, fees, and bail as a source of revenue. In the past three decades, the use of fines and fees has grown exponentially. In 1986, 12 percent of those incarcerated were also fined. By 2004, the number had tripled. Similarly, bail bond use has also increased, growing nearly 60 percent between 1996 and 2014. Two-thirds of individuals in prison have criminal justice debts.
In most cases, these charges do not take into consideration a defendant’s ability to pay. Low-income individuals with criminal justice debt often struggle between paying these debts and other necessities like food and rent, trapping them in an ever growing cycle of debt, and, at times, jail or prison time, for the inability to pay, even for non-jailable offenses.
Poverty can no longer justify depriving people of their liberties.