New Initiative Will Measure the True Cost of Fines, Fees, and Financial Bail in New Orleans
New York, NY—The Vera Institute of Justice today announced a new initiative that will examine the full costs of a justice system which relies heavily on revenue from defendants and their families, and provide recommendations for an alternative funding structure to decrease the human and financial toll created by this system.
The New Orleans criminal justice system, like many other local systems across the country, operates significantly on funding generated from the people cycling through it—from bail and associated fees before trial, to fines and fees levied after conviction. Such “user fees” are often set without consideration of the defendants’ financial means and failure to pay can keep someone behind bars or land them back in jail. This perpetuates an overreliance on local incarceration that exacts significant unnecessary costs on individuals, communities, and taxpayers alike. While the harms of this “user-pay” system on predominantly low-income communities of color have generally been well documented, research is needed to understand the full costs of these practices to both affected individuals and taxpayers.