Improving Economic Sanctions in the States

34 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2015

See all articles by Jessica Eaglin

Jessica Eaglin

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: May 6, 2015


Economic sanctions in the U.S. justice system have acquired newfound attention from the public and policymakers across the country in recent years. As states reconsider excessively severe sentences for low level offenders captured in the justice system, there is a renewed interest in using alternatives to incarceration – including economic sanctions – to further penal policy while avoiding the high costs of incarceration. This development lies in tension with the reality that many defendants cannot afford even minimal economic sanctions and instead accrue criminal justice debt. Policymakers are only just starting to engage with substantive solutions to this problem. The American Law Institute finds itself at the forefront in considering these realities as it completely restructures the Model Penal Code’s approach to economic sanctions.

This Article discusses the American Law Institute’s new approach in the context of the competing interests that make determining an appropriate economic sanctions policy perspective difficult. It highlights the ways that this policy reform strikes a balance between the competing goals before proposing practical measures to build upon this new approach. The Article also discusses how broader trends in criminal justice policy could prevent the improvements envisioned by the Code’s revised approach. Ultimately this Article argues that using economic sanctions in a way that is productive and proportionate – like other punitive policies in the states – requires changing the way we punish for more than just cost-saving reasons. The revised Model Penal Code makes great strides in this direction, but more can, and must, be done.

Keywords: Sentencing, Criminal Justice, Economic Sanctions, Fees and Fines, Reform, Politics, Punishment

Suggested Citation

Eaglin, Jessica, Improving Economic Sanctions in the States (May 6, 2015). Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 99, No. 5, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Jessica Eaglin (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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