New DOJ Resources Support Efforts to Reform Fine and Fee Practices
National Legal Aid and Defender Association
March 18, 2016

The Department of Justice has announced new resources to assist state and local efforts to alter practices around the assessment and enforcement of fines and fees, practices that are unlawful and harmful to low-income people.  The resources are designed to bolster efforts to ensure equal justice for all people, regardless of financial status.

Sent to the state chief justices and state court administrators, the resource package is also useful for advocates across disciplines working on reforms across the country and includes:

A “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department to state chief justices and state court administrators to provide greater clarity of legal obligations with respect to the enforcement of fines and fees. The letter is available here.
A new Resource Guide from the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center called Reforming the Assessment and Enforcement of Fines and Fees. The guide compiles studies and various publications to help inform policy decisions and strategies at the state, local, and tribal levels.
An announcement of $2.5 million in competitive grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Four grants of $500,000 will go to state, local, or tribal agencies who collaborate with community partners to reform practices, and $500,000 will support technical assistance to the grantees. BJA will host a webinar on March 28, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. ET for agencies interested in applying. Click here to register.
Expressed support for the new National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices. The Task Force will work to draft model statutes, court rules, and procedures, and will develop a clearinghouse for best practices.

These new resources build upon the Department’s continuing efforts in this area, including its investigation and report on the Ferguson, Missouri, police department and municipal court debt, released in March 2015, and a two-day convening in December 2015, which discussed unlawful and harmful practices across the country. Participants in the December convening identified legal guidance, support for the development of model practices, and resources to support local reform as specific ways the Department could assist efforts to change fine and fee practices and address their harmful impact to poor people, particularly people of color.

Click here to read the full announcement from the Department of Justice.

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