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September 15, 2016

"Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration: Cash-Register Justice in the Criminal System"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing article authored by Laura Appleman now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Criminal justice debt has aggressively metastasized throughout the criminal system.  A bewildering array of fees, fines, court costs, non-payment penalties, and high interest rates have turned criminal process into a booming revenue center for state courts and corrections.  As criminal justice administrative costs have skyrocketed, the burden to fund the system has fallen largely on the system’s users, primarily poor or indigent, who often cannot pay their burden.

Unpaid criminal justice debt often leads to actual incarceration or substantial punitive fines, which turns rapidly into “punishment.” Such punishment at the hands of a court, bureaucracy, or private entity compromises the Sixth Amendment right to have all punishment imposed by a jury.  This Article explores the netherworld of criminal justice debt and analyzes implications for the Sixth Amendment jury trial right, offering a new way to attack the problem.  The specter of “cash-register justice,” which overwhelmingly affects the poor and dispossessed, perpetuates hidden inequities within the criminal justice system. I offer solutions rooted in Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.

September 15, 2016 at 10:23 AM | Permalink


Crime Doesn't Pay, unless you're part of the so-called justice system, then crime is a cash-cow.
We wonder why prison has such a revolving door, it's because those who get out can't get a job with a criminal record, with no job they can't afford all the fines, fees, restitution, treatment, etc. that ends up being part of their probation requirements.
The justice system seems to be a "set-up for failure" for those getting out of jail or prison.

Posted by: kat | Sep 15, 2016 3:21:11 PM

Of course the justice system is set-up for failure. I recently came across this interesting research that illustrates how people's moral judgement affects their perception of risk. Although it is not directed at criminal justice, it makes one think about another risk that is hard to get an accurate handle on: the risk of recidivism.


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