In today’s economy, overwhelming debt is an unfortunate reality for millions of Americans. From credit card debt to mortgage debt to student loan debt, Americans increasingly live off of borrowed money. But few realize how the criminal justice system imposes increasing debts on individuals. Worse still, criminal justice debt perpetuates mass incarceration.
Individuals processed through the judicial system in many states are charged fees and fines at every turn. There are fines intended to punish an individual for the commission of an offense, like speeding fines. There are fees intended for repayment of any harm caused to victims, including restitution payments and contributions to victim funds.
But there are other, less visible costs as well. For example, correctional facilities across the nation charge fees to their inmates for countless reasons. The Mason County Detention Center in Kentucky charges $25 a day to stay at the facility, in addition to a $20 booking fee, a $5 release fee, and a $7 medical co-payment fee. Other jails charge for toilet paper and clothing. Then there are fees for using the criminal justice system itself. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia allow fees for a public defender, and 44 states charge individuals for using probation services. Though many of these fees may seem relatively small – public defender fees range from about $50 to $200 – they add up quickly and a defendant can emerge from the system with thousands of dollars in debt. PressTV