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Resource Guide: Reforming the Assessment and Enforcement of Fines and Fees

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2016
18 pages

The resources described in this guide are intended to assist jurisdictions in reforming criminal justice policies for assessing and enforcing fines, fees, and other financial obligations imposed on those processed by the criminal justice system, so as to prevent these financial obligations from posing barriers to reentry, rehabilitation, and offenders' support for their families.


The provision of these resources stems largely from the U.S. Justice Department's convening of a working session in 2015 entitled, "Poverty and the Justice System: The Effect and Fairness of Fees and Fines." A companion event sponsored by the White House in 2015 was entitled, "A Cycle of Incarceration: Prison, Debt, and Bail Practices." These working sessions brought together judges, court administrators, academics, prosecutors, legislators, advocates, and other justice system actors and national experts to examine the practice of assessing and enforcing "legal financial obligations" (LFOs). In building on these working sessions, which cited many reforms already underway and offered other recommendations, the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs developed this guide. It identifies resources and related publications that address issues related to fines, fees, and other financial obligations imposed on those processed in the justice system. The resources identified are intended to be a starting point for executive-level officials to explore how science and data can be used to inform policy decisions and support the creation of strategies at the State, local, and tribal levels. The resources provided are organized into four key areas: background data, case studies, issue studies, reform guidance, and reform tools.

Date Published: March 1, 2016