Proportionate Financial Sanctions: Policy Prescriptions for Judicial Reform
Criminal Justice Policy Program, Harvard Law School, 2019
80 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020
Date Written: September 4, 2019
Eliminating the harms of exorbitant monetary sanctions on poor people in our civil and criminal legal systems requires wholesale change. In this paper, the Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School proposes a framework for one component of such reform: a complete reworking of how courts handle financial sanctions. The judicial branch has an independent responsibility to sentence and enforce fines fairly. In most jurisdictions, courts could implement these changes today without legislative reform. Although legislation is needed in many states — including to eliminate fees and surcharges and decriminalize low-level offenses — courts need not wait for such reforms to ease or even prevent the worst harms that excessive financial sanctions create for poor people, especially people of color.
Keywords: courts, fines and fees, fines
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