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March 7, 2023

"The Failed Promise of Installment Fines"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Beth Colgan and Jean Galbraith now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

In the 1970s, the Supreme Court prohibited the then-common practice of incarcerating criminal defendants because they lacked the money to immediately pay off their fines and fees.  The Court suggested that states could instead put defendants on installment payment plans.  As this Article shows, this suggestion came against a backdrop of impressive success stories about installment fines — including earlier experiments in which selected defendants had reliably paid off modest fines through carefully calibrated payment plans.  Yet as this Article also shows, installment fines practices of today differ significantly from those early experiments, as lawmakers have increased fine amounts, added on fees, surcharges, and restitution, and penalized nonpayment through additional costs and other sanctions.  This has turned installment fines into tools of long-term oppression. 

Further, the early experiments were only ever limited solutions that left behind people in the most precarious financial circumstances, widened the government’s net around only those of limited means, and raised the risk that crime policy would be driven by revenue generation aims rather than justice.  Those problems continue today.  For all too many, installment fines are unaffordable, endless, and arbitrarily administered — and applied instead of better and more equitable solutions.  We close the Article by arguing that the present-day uses of installment fines merit both constitutional challenge and policy reform.

March 7, 2023 at 09:51 PM | Permalink


No fines, no probation, no prison -- all positions that have been advocated in this space fervently and more than once.

In other words, no punishment. Which is what it's all about. This is because crime is so wonderful and criminals are so wonderful -- and it's all racist anyway, let's not forget that one.

This sounds a lot like Lori Lightfoot, who carried all 50 wards four years ago and this time got a full 17% of the Democratic primary vote. Normal people of all political stripes are getting fed up with this far Left mantra.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 8, 2023 12:06:37 AM

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