Wednesday, July 13, 2016

sheriff of nottinghamism at epidemic levels...,


HuffPo |  How are your local courts and jails funded? If your community is like most of America, chances are the criminal justice system itself has become a revenue collection service - with problematic results.

Every state except Alaska, North Dakota, and DC has increased civil and criminal fees since 2010. Many charge for services that are constitutionally required and were once free. As states and local governments have felt the pinch from the 2008 economic crash, they have turned to fines and fees to fill in budget gaps.

The most famous example is in Ferguson, Missouri. The U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of the Ferguson Police Department exposed how the department collects fines and fees not for the sake of public safety, but to raise money for city government. The FPD revenue targets in 2015 accounted for 20% of the city’s operating budget.

Or listen to Jared Thornburg, in Westminister, Colorado. He was ticketed for making an illegal left turn. But because he had lost his job after a serious workplace injury, he couldn’t pay the ticket. He found a new job - but the day before he started, he was arrested for not paying the fines, which had escalated from $165 to $306. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, which cost that city $70 per night. As Jared points out, “It cost the taxpayers more than what my fine was for and it just wasted 10 days of my life.”

It adds up to what Bill Mauer, from the Institute of Justice, calls “taxation by citation.” This reliance on fines and fees to cover fiscal gaps brings along with it four main problems.