NCSL Fines and Fees Policy Learning Consortium

11/27/2019

Policy Learning Consortium Overview

NCSL, with support from Arnold Ventures, is assisting participating states in improving their understanding of fines and fees issues and best practices, becoming familiar with and discussing existing fines and fees policies in their state, and creating an action plan that focuses on reducing disparities, increasing transparency, and enhancing procedural justice within fines and fees policy, while also improving community safety.

The states taking part in the Fines and Fees Policy Learning Consortium are Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada and Washington. These states completed an application process in order to take part in the consortium.

The consortium provides a forum for states to look at one or more of the policies within the realm of fines and fees. Policies that states may choose to address include, but are not limited to, driver’s license suspensions, juvenile fines and fees, community supervision fees, incarceration-related fees, and penalties for non-payment of fines and fees.

  • The lack of a driver's license can make it harder for individuals to meet their financial obligations when they are unable to drive to work. As a result, some states are increasingly reevaluating the suspension of driver's licenses for unpaid fines and fees unrelated to driving.
  • Juvenile fines and fees can result in further involvement in the justice system for young people and their families who are unable to pay. Some states have taken incremental steps to mitigate the negative effects caused by financial legal obligations by streamlining processes to reduce these costs, offering modifications for indigent youth and allowing for judicial discretion when imposing court costs.
  • Community supervision fees can quickly add-up when considering court costs, electronic monitoring, and treatment costs, among others. Some states have considered waiving, reducing or paying for some of these fees to promote success and limit revocations.
  • People who are incarcerated can also encounter significant fees, including the costs of commissary items, phone calls and medical services. Capping the rates that prisons can charge is one approach states are taking to reducing these costs that inmates must pay.
  • Common consequences for failure to pay court-ordered fines and fees include driver’s license suspension, vehicle impoundment, arrest and more discrete consequences such as utilities shut-off. The development of payment alternatives or ability-to-pay determinations for indigent defendants can help reduce these negative consequences.

Participating states developed teams representing all three branches of government in the state. Teams include a “core group” and a “home group.” Participation in the Consortium also provides the opportunity for in-state convenings with NCSL staff, national experts, and the full state team to further develop and implement state action plans.

Policy Learning Consortium Expert Organizations

NCSL invited a number of organizations to participate in the Policy Learning Consortium, sharing their expertise and knowledge with the state teams. Seventeen organizations agreed to participate. Detail on the organizations can be found here.

First Convening

Members of each state’s “core group” traveled to the first multi-state consortium seminar Nov. 4-6, 2019 in New Orleans, La.

Nov. 4, 2019
2-2:30 p.m.

Welcome and Consortium Kickoff

Moderator: Amanda Essex, Criminal Justice senior policy specialist, NCSL

  • Sarah Brown, Criminal Justice group director, NCSL
  • Juliene James, director of Criminal Justice Policy, Arnold Ventures
2:30-3:45 p.m.

National Overview of Fines and Fees Policy

Moderator: Amber Widgery, Criminal Justice senior policy specialist, NCSL

  • Lisa Foster, co-executive director, Fines and Fees Justice Center | Presentation
  • Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Ohio Supreme Court, co-chair of National Center for State Courts Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices

Resources

4-5:30 p.m.

First State Team Time

Teams will familiarize themselves with recent actions in the state to address legal financial obligations, establish a vision for their work and develop corresponding goals.

Nov. 5, 2019
8-9 a.m.

The Reality of the Impacts on Women

Moderator: Alison Lawrence, Criminal Justice program director, NCSL

  • Syrita Steib-Martin, executive director, Operation Restoration
9-10:15 a.m.

Mitigating the Negative Effects of Legal Financial Obligations in the Juvenile System

Moderator: Anne Teigen, Criminal Justice program director, NCSL

10:30-11:45 a.m.

Addressing the Impact of Driver’s License Suspensions for Non-Driving Offenses

Moderator: Douglas Shinkle, Transportation program director, NCSL

  • Brian Ursino, director, Law Enforcement Program, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators| Presentation
  • Pat Levy-Lavelle, attorney, Legal Aid Justice Center| Presentation
  • Geoff Cunningham, policy and legislative analyst, Washington State Department of Licensing| Presentation

Resources

Noon-2 p.m.

Second State Team Time

Teams will set the stage for the action planning by discussing the current context for their work and what success will look like at the end.

2-3:15 p.m.

Exploring Fees in Community Supervision

Moderator: Juliene James, director of Criminal Justice Policy, Arnold Ventures

  • Carl Reynolds, senior legal and policy advisor, The Council of State Governments Justice Center
  • Scott Peyton, state director, Louisiana Right on Crime

Resources

3:30-5 p.m.

State Knowledge Exchange

Teams will have opportunities to learn from one another and exchange ideas.

Nov. 6, 2019
8:30-9:30 a.m.

Peer Breakouts

Structured networking by peer group.

9:30-11 a.m.

Final State Team Time

Teams will finalize action plans and next steps.

11-11:30 a.m.

Reporting Out and Closing Remarks

Team facilitators will share summaries of their team’s action plans and next steps with in-state meetings and technical assistance.

  • Amanda Essex, Criminal Justice senior policy specialist, NCSL| Presentation

Additional Resources