Paid in Full A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans

Paid In Full Square


The role that money—in the form of bail, fines and fees—plays in criminal justice systems has come under increased focus. These practices have long plagued New Orleans, driving jail incarceration and costing struggling families—most of them black—millions. Two federal courts recently ruled that judges cannot lawfully impose money bail or enforce conviction fees because their own institution stands to benefit financially from these same decisions. To its credit, New Orleans has been taking the initiative to change by, for example, virtually eliminating money bail for municipal offenses and replacing all revenues the Criminal District Court would lose by eliminating money bail and conviction fees. The system is now paid in full. The next step is to align court practices with this new system of funding to end money injustice and replace it with a fairer and safer system. This report sets out a blueprint to achieve that reality.

Key Takeaway

By taking the actions set out in this report, Criminal District Court judges, the mayor, and city council members will make New Orleans the first city in the country to replace money bail and conviction fees with a fair, safety-promoting, and financially stable system of justice.

Publication Highlights

  • Replacing money bail with the practices outlined in this blueprint is projected to reduce the number of New Orleanians in jail on any given day by 304 to 687 people.

  • New Orleans’s families will be able to keep the nearly $9 million they now spend each year to buy their freedom and spend that money on basic necessities instead.

  • The city will save $5.5 million in taxpayer money from unnecessarily jailing people and will be able to reinvest it in ways that will help support the community.

Key Facts


Past Due

Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable publ ...

  • Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, Christian Henrichson
January 09, 2017

Bail, Fines, and Fees

A look at how bail, fines, and fees in the criminal justice system impact poor communities in New Orleans

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. These practices come with hidden costs to defendants—the majority of whom are poor and black— ...

July 25, 2016