Fines and fees reform

Program basics

  • Policies to reform government-levied fines and fees generally focus on reducing or eliminating financial penalties for minor offenses, such as parking tickets, overdue fees at libraries, or "quality of life" offenses, like loitering.
  • Efforts are generally concentrated on offenses that disproportionately affect residents with low incomes and/or communities of color.
  • Reform initiatives often include large-scale waiving of existing debt, which often enables the restoration of voting rights, driver's licenses, library membership, etc.

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Promising (Third-highest tier)

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Promising (Third-highest tier)

Fines and fees reform is not in any Clearinghouse but is widely recognized by experts as a meaningful pathway to improving economic mobility


Target population

Low- and moderate-income adults and families

Program cost

Not available

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • In San Francisco, CA. fines and fees reform work led by the Financial Justice Project has led to $32 million in criminal justice system debt being waived, lifting debt burdens for nearly 21,000 residents.
  • In Durham, NC, work led by the Durham Expungement and Restoration Program has led to $2.7 million in fines waived for over 11,000 residents. Over 50,000 minor charges have been dismissed for approximately 35,000 people.

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