Criminal Justice Reform

Across the country inequities in our justice system further disadvantage low-wage workers, particularly people of color.  Even for the most minor infractions, fees, fines and unpaid bail can result in long jail stays without judicial recourse, exacerbated by the loss of income and employment.  Reentry into the job market after a jail or prison term is challenging under the best circumstances.  EARN partners document how criminal justice dysfunction undermines the prospects of thousands and suggest policies that can open pathway improvements in the economic prospects—and therefore the long-term economic stability—of formerly incarcerated people and their families.

Publications

Literature review: Incarceration hurts communities

In Ohio, many people are in prison either for violating probation in ways that are not themselves a crime, or for possessing or using drugs. Keeping them in prison is expensive and drains resources for other needs like education, health care or job training. It is also extremely costly to Ohio families, Ohio communities, and the Ohio economy.

2017 Policy Priority: Reform excessive court fines and fees

Tens of thousands of Oklahomans enter the justice system each year and come out with thousands of dollars in debt to the court. For low-income Oklahomans, paying this debt can be nearly impossible as they attempt to rebuild their lives, and it often leads to a cycle of poverty and repeated incarceration. This system does nothing to improve public safety, but incurs high costs to law enforcement, jails, and the courts.

The costs charged to criminal defendants have skyrocketed in recent years as Oklahoma has increased numerous fees. Because most defendants can’t afford the skyrocketing charges, only a tiny fraction of criminal court debt is collected – by one judge’s estimate, only 5 to 11 percent.