Criminal justice debt – the system of fees and fines in the criminal justice system – has serious consequences. The Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder brings transparency to this area of significant legal complexity: it gives easier access to state laws that govern criminal justice debt and suggests policy solutions through the Criminal Justice Policy Program’s Confronting Criminal Justice Debt: A Guide for Policy Reform.
The Reform Builder and Policy Guide are organized into the following reform areas:
Individuals face dozens of fees and surcharges on top of high fine amounts, much of which is often imposed without regard for an individual’s ability to pay.
The negative impact of criminal justice debt is community wide: jurisdictions rely on fees and fines to fund basic operations, distorting the administration of justice and eroding trust. Racial disparities permeate the system.
Financial obligations are structured in a way that impose the harshest effects on the poorest defendants, leading to vicious cycles of ballooning debt, loss of driver’s licenses, jail time, and other harms for non-payment of that debt.
Additional data collection, analysis, and reporting of system-wide practices will shine light on these practices.
Hover over a state on the map to see key criminal justice debt metrics. Currently the map is color-coded by the number of fees and surcharges. Click to navigate to a state summary page with additional statistics, queries into the full law database, and details about our methodology.
Knowing where to begin can be overwhelming: each state has dozens – if not hundreds – of relevant laws governing criminal justice debt. The cards below provide state-specific facts about the operation of criminal justice debt and a number of suggested queries into the Law Explorer so that you may begin to research.