Estimating Impact on Economic Mobility From Court Fees System

Today’s Times has a highly pertinent piece on the dramatic effect of court fees and costs on those caught in the juvenile justice system.  Obviously it relates deeply to all the economic burdens that the legal system is imposing on those least able to bear them.

What I am wondering is this: would it be possible to build an economic model that showed the impact on downward economic mobility of families of these “interventions.”

Its a hard hard question, but for a couple of decades we have tried to think of the court and legal system as at least a potential protector against poverty.  What do we do when and where it becomes a driver of downward economic mobility, even for the middle class?



About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
This entry was posted in Access to Justice Generally, Chasm with Communities, Court Fees and Costs, Metrics. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Estimating Impact on Economic Mobility From Court Fees System

  1. Claudia Johnson says:

    Sharing this link to this new book by Alexes Harris, A Pound of Flesh. This is what it covers, it has real data from WA state:

    What are monetary sanctions and how do they vary nationally? Why are they implemented, what is the legal intent? How might this sentencing practice vary by jurisdiction and why? What are the consequences of monetary sanctions to individuals convicted of crimes? To address these questions, I rely on observational data of criminal sentencing and violation hearings, interviews with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks, state legislators and defendants across five counties within Washington State, state-level legal statute and legislative documents, and automated court data.

    Chapter 7 is of interest: Chapter 7, The Permanent Punishment, concludes by summarizing the practice of monetary sanctions, and describes how this system relates to past systems of American social control and power.

  2. Claudia Johnson says:


    It should also include higher costs of insurance, mortgage interest rates, and any additional costs to access credit for important purchases, like cars, or home, life insurance, health insurance etc. Having a fees and fines case will impact the credit record of the person and will enable companies to charge the family/person much higher rates for everything that relies on a credit record–sometimes more than 2% differential which over a lifetime can be a small fortune and makes this person a low income elderly person. The multiplier effect of this over 10-15 years for women who earn less than men, and on people of color who earn less than whites–is significant.

  3. Claudia Johnson says:

    Just saw this case coming in from Arkansas (not a juvenile case).

    I think it is doable to come up with metrics that meassure the negative impact on the person’s life for this type of enforcement, for example.

    Long term costs:
    1. number of work hours lost in having to go to court for the case for the person who owes the debt and his/her parents or support system.
    2. number of days of work lost if imprisoned due to fines and fees
    3. cost of imprisonment that the county charges the person (for before the hearing)
    1. downgrade in jobs available resulting from the fees and fines case
    2. downgrade in housing rental options resulting from the fees and fines case
    3. loss of housing, car, resulting while the person is locked in and unable to work and provide for the family/children
    4. loss in terms of housing options resulting from any eviction, car repo that result from being in prosion for fees and fines
    5. Medical costs/therapy costs to deal with the health repercusions of having a parent or spouse in jail for fines, for examples
    6. loss of income to spouse or parent due to the case (b/c they had to go to court or help the person out, or take care of the children while the parent was in prison, because it caused them to have an health reaction that led to other negative consequences and bills or loss of job).
    7. impact on the children’s educational achievement, literacy level, and loss of opportunity to participate in sports, or prior extra curricular activities due to loss of income, or loss of support while the parent is in prison. If the children end up in foster care because no family member can step in to take care of them–those costs (to the system) and to the children.
    8. cost of stigma that when coupled with other biases–make the person and the group they belong more likely than not to remain in poverty, not access to good jobs and their children and spouses marginalized.

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