I'm excited to share an article I wrote for Shelterforce, the publication of the National Housing Institute, about the role that legal fees and fines play in widening the racial wealth gap. Here are some excerpts from the article below. I also recorded an audio article, so be sure to have a listen.
"Legal system debt, also known as court debt or legal financial obligations (LFOs), includes fees, fines, court costs, and restitution. It also includes other financial penalties and consequences resulting from being convicted of a crime."
"People have also been forced to take extreme measures to pay off their debt, some even becoming desperate enough to commit crimes to get the money. Four in 10 of those surveyed in Alabama Appleseed’s report say they’ve committed at least one crime to pay off their fines or fees. The people surveyed admitted to selling drugs, stealing and robbery, engaging in sex work, passing bad checks, gambling, and selling stolen items to make money to pay off their court debt. Some people who were fined for traffic offenses, which are not criminal acts, committed felonies to pay off their tickets."
"The Debt Trap: How Court Debt Widens the Racial Wealth Gap." Shelterforce, February 15, 2022. https://shelterforce.org/2022/02/15/the-debt-trap-how-court-debt-widens-the-racial-wealth-gap/