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Alternatives to Custodial Supervision: The Day Fine

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2010
15 pages
This study determined the extent to which "day fines" could become a legitimate and widespread form of punishment in the U.S. criminal justice system, so as to reduce the levels of custodial sentences.
Day fines are monetary penalties imposed on an offender that take into account the offender's financial means. The amount of a fine is determined by the severity of the offense and the offender's daily income. Day fines could be an alternative to sanctions that require direct supervision, either in the community or an institution. This study concludes that day fines achieve many important benefits for criminal justice systems, especially the capability of reducing corrections populations. The drawbacks of day fines are essentially procedural, but are not so problematic as to outweigh the benefits. Moreover, the administrative structures of day fine systems are so varied that most systemic features can be accommodated. Previous experiences with day fines in the United States indicate that courts using them had little trouble incorporating day fines into their sentencing system and in computing fine amounts. The challenges involved monitoring and enforcing fine collections. European systems offer a variety of ways to address these challenges. The current study advises that fines should be imposed on a wide range of criminal offenses, including lesser felonies. Penalties may escalate for repeat offenses to include prison or jail, but probation sentences should be avoided. Combining fines with suspended sentences or community service will minimize the drain on system resources. After an overview of day fines, this paper describes the calculation of day fines, day fine systems in countries throughout the world, efforts to implement day fines in the United States, the strengths of day fines, and the weaknesses of day fines. Data needed to evaluate the use of day fines are also discussed. 26 references

Date Published: April 1, 2010