Federal Probation Volume: 53 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1989) Pages: 43-48
Although collecting and administering offender probation fees are not without problems, there is no evidence to support claims that such activities will be unfair, excessively time consuming, difficult, or costly.
In recent years, proposals to shift the cost of probation from the taxpayer to the offender have garnered increasing support. The number of States which have authorized the imposition of some form of probation fee have more than doubled since 1980; nonetheless, debate over these fees continues. On balance, most of the objections against probation fees can be addressed either in the enabling legislation or the administration of the fee program. Concerns that individuals might be incarcerated solely for inability to pay their fees can be resolved with provisions for indigency exclusions and community service alternatives. Fears that probation fees will compete with and sometimes displace restitution payments, victim/witness fees, or other court-ordered payments can be allayed by establishing a formal procedure for determining the order in which various financial obligations shall be satisfied. In other instances, the objections raised by opponents are not borne out by the experience of States currently operating fee programs. Officials in most jurisdictions with fee programs report few problems and substantial benefits. 13 footnotes.
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This article is based on a report published by the Massachusetts Legislative Research Bureau.