Costs of Injustice: How Criminal System Fees Are Hurting Los Angeles County Families
Los Angeles County has a responsibility to ensure that all its community members, whether rich or poor, receive equal justice and a fair chance to succeed. However, by using the criminal system to extract fees and fines from low-income communities of color, the county is doing the opposite.
Los Angeles County's assessment and collection of criminal system fees and fines is linked to America's long history of punishing poverty and exploiting the poor under the guise of justice. The policies of extracting fees and fines from county residents, along with detaining people who can't pay bail and incarcerating or extending the probation of those who fail to pay "on time," are rooted in past systems that have trapped people in detention, debt, and unpaid labor due to an inability to pay for freedom: debtors' prisons, workhouses, and convict labor.
This report documents how criminal system fees and fines can extract thousands of dollars from a single person for a single case. Drawing from firsthand accounts of individuals who have struggled to survive through and break free from this system, in addition to data from the very agencies that seek to collect the funds, this report describes how Los Angeles County pushes people into the criminal system, traps them there for far longer than their stated sentence, undermines the successful re-entry of people returning home from jails and prison, and damages the economic security of entire families and communities.
Most important, this report urges the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to end its counterproductive and regressive fees policy and push the state to end its practice of collecting fees and fines. Instead, the county should invest in the shared prosperity and promise of all residents.