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.
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
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
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
- Addicted to Fines: A Special Report, Governing Magazine
- Courts Are Not Revenue Centers, Conference of State Court Administrators
- Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System, Executive Office of the President of the United States
- Fines, Fees, and Forfeiture Cases, Institute for Justice
- Monetary Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System, Report to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation
- Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans, Vera Institute of Justice
- The Price of Taxation by Citation: Case Studies of Three Georgia Cities that Rely Heavily on Fines and Fees, Institute for Justice
- Reducing Fines and Fees in County Justice Systems, National Association of Counties
- Repaying Debts, Council of State Governments Justice Center
- Resource Guide: Reforming the Assessment and Enforcement of Fines and Fees, OJP Diagnostic Center
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
The Reality of the Impacts on Women
Moderator: Alison Lawrence, Criminal Justice program director, NCSL
- Syrita Steib-Martin, executive director, Operation Restoration
Mitigating the Negative Effects of Legal Financial Obligations in the Juvenile System
Moderator: Anne Teigen, Criminal Justice program director, NCSL
- Jessica Feierman, senior managing director, Juvenile Law Center| Presentation
- Judge Candice Bates Anderson, chief judge, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court| Presentation
- Ahmed Lavalais, clinical teaching fellow, Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic | Juvenile Fee Collection in California Resource
- Access Denied: A National Snapshot of States’ Failure to Protect Children’s Right to Counsel, National Juvenile Defender Center
- Arizona: Bringing Gault Home, An Assessment of Access to and Quality of Juvenile Defense Counsel, National Juvenile Defender Center
- A Right to Liberty: Reforming Juvenile Money Bail, National Juvenile Defender Center
- The Cost of Juvenile Probation: A Critical Look into Juvenile Supervision Fees, National Juvenile Defender Center
- Debt-Free Justice: A Bottom-Up Approach to Ending Juvenile Fees, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic
- Ensuring Young People Are Not Criminalized for Poverty: Bail, Fees, Fines, Costs, and Restitution in Juvenile Court, National Juvenile Defender Center
- High Pain, No Gain: How Juvenile Administrative Fees Harm Low-Income Families in Alameda County, California, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic
- Juvenile Fee Abolition in California: Early Lessons and Challenges for the Debt Free Justice Movement, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic
- Making Families Pay: The Harmful, Unlawful, and Costly Practice of Charging Juvenile Administrative Fees in California, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic
- Op-Ed: States Must Abolish Juvenile Fees. They’re Putting Families in Debt, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic
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
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.
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
State Knowledge Exchange
Teams will have opportunities to learn from one another and exchange ideas.
Nov. 6, 2019
Structured networking by peer group.
Final State Team Time
Teams will finalize action plans and next steps.
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
- Assessing Fines and Fees in the Criminal Justice System, NCSL
- 50-State Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder, Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School
- Confronting Criminal Justice Debt, Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School
- Criminal Justice Administrative Fees High Pain for People, Low Gain for Government. A Call to Action for California Counties, The Financial Justice Project, San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector
- Municipal Fines and Fees: A 50-State Survey of State Laws, Institute for Justice
- Paying on Probation: How Financial Sanctions Intersect with Probation to Target, Trap, and Punish People Who Cannot Pay, Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School
- Proportionate Financial Sanctions: Policy Prescriptions for Judicial Reform, Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School
- Reducing Criminal Justice Fines & Fees: How Can Counties Afford it?, NACo
- The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines, Brennan Center for Justice