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The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration

"Financial debt associated with legal system involvement is a pressing issue that affects the criminal justice system, offenders, and taxpayers. Mere contact with the criminal justice system often results in fees and fines that increase with progression through the system ... This report explores the causes and effects of perpetual criminal debt and offers solutions for encouraging ex-offender payment." Sections of this report include: introduction to criminal justice fees; inmate wages; examples of user fees and penalties for non-payment of criminal justice debt in eight states; restitution; child support; debt priorities; state and federal prioritization of offender financial obligations; debt collection; common collection practices and associated hidden costs to the ex-offender; effects of criminal debt; sources of offender debt, consequences of non-payment, and barriers to ways to reduce accumulated debt; employment wages; financial assistance for ex-offenders; release funds (gate money) in selected sates; eight proposed solutions; and conclusion.