Blood from a Turnip: Money as Punishment in Idaho

27 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021 Last revised: 1 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jeffrey Selbin

Jeffrey Selbin

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Gus Tupper

Policy Advocacy Clinic

Cristina Mendez

Policy Advocacy Clinic

Date Written: May 8, 2021

Abstract

Idaho law authorizes, and in many cases requires, state and local courts to charge fines and fees to people in adult and juvenile court. In 2019, the state legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations published a report acknowledging that “Idaho has made a policy decision to rely on fines and fees as a considerable source of court funding.” The bulk of the revenue comes from fines and fees assessed in criminal proceedings, and much of it flows to entities and programs outside the court system. Although courts collect some of the charged fines and fees, the study found that Idahoans cumulatively have “at least 206,289 unpaid [fines and fees] statewide totaling $195 million,” or more than $100 for every resident of the state.

Idaho is hardly unique in this respect, but it is a long way from Ferguson, Missouri, where the phenomenon of state-sanctioned racialized wealth extraction first made its way into the public consciousness in the wake of Department of Justice investigation of the killing of Michael Brown. Through the lens of the OPE report and a major fines and fees case pending before the Idaho Supreme Court (Beck v. Elmore County), we explore Idaho’s growing reliance on monetary sanctions as a form of punishment and revenue, with a focus on juvenile delinquency fees. We situate Idaho’s scheme in the larger context of how monetary sanctions contribute to mass criminalization and racial injustice. Finally, we recommend specific steps for reform to end the harmful impact of monetary sanctions.

Keywords: fines and fees, monetary sanctions, court debt, abolition, Ferguson, wealth extraction, juvenile justice

Suggested Citation

Selbin, Jeffrey and Tupper, August and Mendez, Cristina, Blood from a Turnip: Money as Punishment in Idaho (May 8, 2021). Idaho Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3841854

Jeffrey Selbin (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

August Tupper

Policy Advocacy Clinic ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Cristina Mendez

Policy Advocacy Clinic ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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