Use of Monetary Judgments for Justice-Involved Individuals
Enacted: Mar 2017
WHEREAS, to address the impact discretionary monetary judgments, e.g., bail, fines, fees, have on justice-involved individuals, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) supports pretrial, probation and parole agencies (agencies) nationwide as they work to prioritize restitution to victims, avoid inordinate fines and fees on those who cannot afford them, ensure financial assessments are reasonable and take into consideration payment ability, and not become the catalyst for recidivism and socio-economic failures including increased poverty.
WHEREAS, the purpose of supervision is multi-faceted with the primary foci being to protect the community-at-large, help make victims of crime whole, and assist those justice-involved individuals under supervision with successful re-integration into the community as productive citizens.
WHEREAS, a number of justice-involved individuals, who, based on actuarial risk assessments are eligible for release, are held in custody prior to conviction simply due to their inability to post the required bail, costing taxpayers the unnecessary expense of continued incarceration;
WHEREAS, those who remain detained due to lack of financial means to be released may face detrimental results relating to, among others, employment, education, housing, and family/social relationships;
WHEREAS, incarceration of lower risk individuals increases their likelihood of re-arrest, increasing risk to the community;
WHEREAS, agencies and courts have limited discretion in recommending the amounts of required financial sanctions in accordance with State laws;
WHEREAS, a high volume of justice-involved individuals unable to meet their Court-ordered financial requirements receive additional incarceration or long-term financial sanctions resulting from collections of outstanding fines and fees, in addition to high interest rates and collection fees, subsequently punishing the individual long after the incarceration or supervision period ends;
WHEREAS, justice-involved individuals often lose their driving privileges due to non-payment of Court-ordered financial conditions, resulting in hardship to maintaining employment, inability to contribute to their family well-being (including housing), and making payments on their Court-ordered financial conditions;
WHEREAS, officers are spending time collecting financial assessments that are punitive in nature instead of focusing on their responsibilities to supervise and assist in rehabilitation and public safety;
WHEREAS, justice-involved individuals face violation of supervision when not in compliance with Court-ordered financial conditions; and
WHEREAS, violation proceedings solely for financial non-compliance are costly to all parties: the individual, who might lose employment, housing, progress in treatment programs, and receive additional financial sanctions; the agency, in the resources spent on initiating the violation proceedings; the Court, in the time spent on the violation proceedings; the victim, whose restitution payments are further delayed; and the taxpayers of the community.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Probation and Parole Association supports and encourages agencies to do the following:
- Emphasize the payment of restitution owed to victims over other assessments, fines, fees and surcharges;
- Obtain and provide payment ability information to the Court at the time release decisions are being made so as to avoid unfair economic hardship and continued incarceration as a result of inability to pay the bail amount;
- Use actuarial risk assessments to provide information for release decisions so those lower risk individuals may be released pending court proceedings;
- Take into consideration a justice-involved individual’s ability to pay prior to making a recommendation to the Court relating to discretionary financial assessments and monthly payment amounts;
- Encourage legislators to revise State laws to enable Courts the discretion to waive certain fines and fees based on the an individual’s ability to pay, as well as eliminate interest rates and collection fees;
- Re-evaluate a probationer’s ability to pay during the supervision period when financial circumstances change, and make requests of the Court to modify payment amounts based on that ability to pay;
- Not recommend incarceration for any individual solely as a result of inability to pay Court-ordered financial sanctions;
- Maximize the use of graduated responses as appropriate and as possible to address willful non-compliance with financial conditions of supervision to avoid incarceration and revocation proceedings; and
- Use, as permitted by State law, the ability of the individual to complete community restitution hours to satisfy Court-ordered financial sanctions.
Kopf, Daniel and Rabuy, Bernadette (May 10, 2016). “Detaining the Poor: How Money Bail Perpetuates an Endless Cycle of Poverty and Jail Time.” Prison Policy Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/incomejails.html
Blog. (May 25, 2016). “More Evidence of the Harms of Money Bail.” Pretrial Justice Institute. http://www.pretrial.org/evidence-harms-money-bail/
Sawyer, Wendy. (December 8, 2016). “Punishing Poverty: The high cost of probation fees in Massachusetts”. Prison Policy Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/probation/ma_report.html
Martin, Karin D, Smith, Sandra Susan, Still, Wendy. (January 13, 2017). Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-entry They Create.” Harvard Kennedy School Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. https://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/criminaljustice/research-publications/executive-sessions/escommunitycorrections/publications/shackled-to-debt