People trapped in the criminal justice system are typically poor and struggling to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. Yet an arrest can lead to many and varied fines, fees, and court costs resulting in a bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Vera’s Justice Fines and Fees Project will explore just how much fine and fee revenue local governments collect to finance police, courts, jails, and other agencies. Vera’s research will pinpoint precisely where these revenues go and highlight the perverse incentives that are inherent when governments financially benefit from the costs they levy. This project will support policy reforms to reduce the reliance on fine and fee revenue and the economic injustice of balancing budgets on the backs of the poor.

Project Objectives

  • Uncover the use of fines and fees in the justice system to support local government budgets.

  • Explore strategies to replace fines and fees with revenue sources that are more fair, sustainable, and predictable.

  • Use data and research to support reforms that reduce the costs and collateral consequences of fines and fees.