Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action
by Melissa Broome
JOTF is pleased to be included in the Brennan Center for Justice’s recent publication: Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action. The Toolkit is the latest in a series of Brennan Center publications that demonstrate how, across the country, cash-strapped court systems are attempting to fund their operations on the backs of indigent people.
Many states charge a number of fees at every stage of criminal processing: fees for public defenders, jail fees, prison fees, court administrative fees, prosecution fees, probation fees, parole fees, etc. When these fees are applied without considering whether or not a person can actually pay them, it creates enormous costs for the states, communities and individuals ensnared in the system.
Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action highlights the successful reform efforts advocates have led around the country, including 2011 Maryland legislation championed by JOTF to ensure that parolees are informed of the parole fee exemption process. In Maryland, persons on parole are billed $40 per month for their supervision. Though a fee exemption process exists, prior to the legislation, most parolees were unaware that they may qualify for an exemption. The Brennan Center Report: Maryland’s Parole Supervision Fee: A Barrier to Reentry provides good background on this issue.
The Toolkit also suggests issue areas that advocates can target for reform, and presents action materials advocates can use to build a successful campaign to fight for more just policies.