Criminal Legal System

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.



Criminal Fines and Fees: An Age-Old Tool That Has Enslaved, Oppressed, and Disenfranchised Black Floridians

To chart an equitable course forward for all Floridians, we must first understand the journey that brought us to where we are today. The following publication is the third in FPI’s “Pursue Equity” series, a part of a multi-year research initiative on Florida’s historically discriminatory policies, their evolution, and their impact on all Florida communities today.


Bail reform will make Ohioans healthier

  • November 4, 2021
  • Samuel Johnson, Tanisha Pruitt, PhD, Piet van Lier

Most Ohioans believe that we all deserve a justice system that treats everyone fairly, no matter how much money we have or the color of our skin. But on any given day in Ohio, as many as 12,600 people are incarcerated before they have even gone to trial. Local judges have increased the number of people held in jail pretrial, from fewer than 3,000 in 1978. Today, those jailed pretrial often outnumber individuals serving jail time post-conviction, even as overall crime rates have fallen. Excessive rates of pretrial detention have contributed to growing concerns about the effectiveness and constitutionality of the current bail system.


A War on Us: How Much New Jersey Spends Enforcing the War on Drugs

This report highlights state budget spending dedicated over the past decade to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate residents for drug war violations. This analysis is contextualized with the racist origins of drug war policies, comparisons of New Jersey’s drug war spending to spending on public health, and the stories of residents directly harmed by the drug war.


First In Line: Why the District Must Take a Reparative Approach to Recreational Cannabis Policy for Black and Brown Communities

This new Council Period, DC policymakers can continue advancements in racial equity (as envisioned in the Racial Equity Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2020) and help build a just economic recovery with recreational cannabis policy. DC’s Black and brown communities are still enduring the harmful effects of past policies that penalized cannabis, and nationally, about 80 percent of people incarcerated for a federal drug offense are Black or Latino. Legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis in a reparative way would allow these communities to achieve justice and build wealth. While the recreational sale of cannabis is still illegal in DC, the office of the DC Attorney General concluded that The District can proceed with legislative hearings on regulating the sale of recreational cannabis despite ongoing congressional interference. The new Democratic-led Senate could also help usher in legislative changes that affirm DC’s right to self-determination in setting recreational cannabis regulation.