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.


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.

Proposition 57: Should Voters Provide State Officials With New Flexibility to Reduce the Prison Population?

Proposition 57, which will appear on the November 8, 2016 statewide ballot, would amend the California Constitution to give state officials new policy options for reducing incarceration. The measure also would amend state law to require youth to have a hearing in juvenile court before they could be transferred to adult court. This Issue Brief provides an overview of this ballot measure as well as its potential impact on the state correctional system and the state budget. The California Budget & Policy Center neither supports nor opposes Prop. 57.

The Time is Ripe for Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform is long overdue in Georgia. Last fall the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House created a Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. In November the Council released a special report, which contained an analysis of the criminal justice problem as well as recommendations. I was pleased to see that many of the recommendations offered in the Council’s report were similar to the recommendations GBPI proposed four years ago in the report, Tough on Crime and the Budget: The Difficult Balancing Act of Public Safety and Skyrocketing Prison Costs. The GBPI report documented the history of public policy choices that led to the dramatic growth in costs of the state prison system. To bring those costs under control, we recommended sentencing reform, evidence-based alternative sentences, and increased use of drug and mental health courts.

Tough On Crime and The Budget

This report provides recommendations to reform the criminal justice system in Georgia. This system has experienced rapid budget growth due, in part, to Georgia’s tough on crime policies and the rising age of inmates and their associated healthcare costs. These budget pressures are likely to continue, given the growing and aging inmate population, unless policymakers focus on differentiating between non-violent offenders and serious violent, sexual, and habitual offenders.