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Targeted Fines & Fees Against Low Income Minorities: Civil Rights & Constitutional Implications: Testimony Before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

15 Pages Posted: 19 May 2017  

Neil L. Sobol

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: March 10, 2017

Abstract

My testimony today will focus on issues discussed in Fighting Fines & Fees: Borrowing from Consumer Law to Combat Criminal Justice Debt Abuses, forthcoming in the Colorado Law Review. In that article, I examine whether the framework used to address debt-collection abuses in the consumer context should apply to the abusive collection and assessment of criminal justice debt. I argue that the rationale that led to the enactment of the federal FDCPA and the creation of CFPB to combat consumer collection abuses parallels the reasons that a federal statute should be adopted to help the DOJ coordinate the attack against abuses in the collection of criminal justice debt. Alternatively, if a federal statute is not adopted, the DOJ should adopt guidelines and coordinate enforcement and outreach activities with state and local authorities to address abusive criminal justice debt collection. A separate division within the DOJ could be created to coordinate and assess the efforts at reducing these abuses. Moreover, by advocating a federal approach, my intention is not to restrict state enforcement, but instead, to provide a floor for enforcement and hopefully encourage additional state and local participation. Following the adoption of the FDCPA, many states not only developed similar legislation but some also adopted greater protections for their residents.

In my testimony, I will compare similarities in the growth and consequences of abuses of criminal justice debt and consumer debt, describe the federal approach used to attack consumer debt collection abuses, and recommend measures to help combat abusive criminal justice debt collection based on the framework used in the consumer context.

Keywords: criminal justice debt, bail, fines, fees, criminal law, poverty law, social justice, consumer law,FDCPA, CFPB, DOJ, debtors'prisons, discrimination, Ferguson, poverty penalties, equal protection, probation, consumer debt

JEL Classification: D18, D63, I30, I31, I32, I39, K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Sobol, Neil L., Targeted Fines & Fees Against Low Income Minorities: Civil Rights & Constitutional Implications: Testimony Before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (March 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2971214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2971214

Neil Sobol (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
8172124055 (Phone)

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