Uncategorized

Pay the fine or do the time

Jail photToday’s must read is this National Public Radio story on the increasing amount of fees and fines being charged in state criminal justice systems and the impact that’s having on criminal defendants — particularly the poor.

Bottom line: in some cases, the crime won’t land a defendant in jail, but failure to pay the fees just might.

As part of its “Guilty and Charged” series (in conjunction with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Center for State Courts), NPR found that defendants are charged for many government services that were once free, including those that are constitutionally required. For example:

  • In at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, defendants can be billed for a public defender.
  • In at least 41 states, inmates can be charged room and board for jail and prison stays.
  • In at least 44 states, offenders can get billed for their own probation and parole supervision.
  • And in all states except Hawaii, and the District of Columbia, there’s a fee for the electronic monitoring devices defendants and offenders are ordered to wear.

That includes North Carolina (see this breakdown of states).

Here’s Durham County Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey (from NCPW’s own series last year on the impact of budget cuts on the courts), discussing how the state is in some ways funding the courts on the backs of those who need their services most through ever-increasing costs and fees:

We say, “okay, you got $250 to do community service, you got $180 to pay for your court costs, you may have a fine, you have attorney’s fees of $55 an hour and a $6 dollar court appointment fee” – add that all up on someone who’s unemployed, mentally ill, charged with a misdemeanor. “And if you don’t pay, you’re going to jail.” What kind of system is that? I mean, of course it’s a revolving door.

 

One Comment


  1. Jim Wiseman

    May 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    It’s not just the criminal justice system that makes it hard on the poor. It’s difficult for the financially challenged law-abiding citizen to get through the government-induced maze of hidden taxes, fees, and regulation that stifles those trying to get ahead.

Check Also

State Supreme Court rules retroactive application of teacher tenure repeal is unconstitutional

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

More than a month after a deadline to correct faulty campaign finance reports, N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise [...]

Even before he dropped the gavel on the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a noto [...]

The $23 billion budget deal speeding through the N.C. General Assembly this week includes a platoon [...]

Royal Diadem Jewelers in Greensboro sets itself apart in a number of small ways - fast and friendly [...]

The final budget that lawmakers have proposed fails to strengthen the foundation of North Carolina’s [...]

Most of the initial headlines about the final budget agreement announced Monday afternoon by legisla [...]

Unexplained, backroom maneuver would rob already underfunded anti-poverty program There’s no denying [...]

Women and their access to health care has been in the news these past few months, as the plan to rep [...]

Featured | Special Projects

Trump + North Carolina
In dozens of vitally important areas, policy decisions of the Trump administration are dramatically affecting and altering the lives of North Carolinians. This growing collection of stories summarizes and critiques many of the most important decisions and their impacts.
Read more


HB2 - The continuing controversy
Policy Watch’s comprehensive coverage of North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBT law.
Read more