Tag Archives: LFO

No way out: For poor defendants, fines and fees are forever

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“Poor people convicted today face fiscal servitude to the court,” writes sociologist Alexes Harris in A Pound of Flesh, an important and highly readable book about the U.S. criminal justice system that will be published in June. Her research reveals how a complex system of fees and fines creates “a two-tiered system of punishment: one for those with financial means and one for those who are poor.” Legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed in criminal cases include fines and restitution, but also fees for everything from court libraries and trial by jury to room and board while imprisoned. Besides the original amounts, interest on unpaid LFOs keeps piling up, sometimes along with annual collection fees on the unpaid balance. Continue reading

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