Reentry

Fees and Fines

Overview

Fines and fees often accompany criminal punishments as an additional deterrent to criminal behavior. The amount of fees and fines associated with a single criminal offense has increased substantially in recent years. Today, justice debt is used to supplement state appropriations to courts as well as municipal revenues. This undermined public trust in the justice system, and imposing large fees on indigent defendants who are unable to pay traps people in an endless cycle of debt and incarceration. Fines and fees can be used appropriately by ensuring that they can be adjusted to meet the means of individual defendants, including by use of payment plans and alternative payment options like community service. Incarceration for inability to pay should never be used as it not only violates an individual’s constitutional rights, it undermines the state’s ability to collect by paying to incarcerate and diminishing an individual’s employment prospects.

Fees and Fines-01
Group_21 (3)

No incarceration for justice debt

Has the state eliminated incarceration as a punishment for failure to pay?

40 points

Group_21 (4)

Proportionality

Are fees and fines set proportionally to an individual’s means and ability to pay?

30 points

Group_21 (5)

Availability of payment plans

Are payment plans available for individuals who cannot pay fines in full?

15 points

Group_21 (6)

Community service options

Is community service provided as an alternative to payment?

15 points

Details

Group_21 (3)

No incarceration for justice debt

Mississippi has eliminated incarceration as a penalty for justice debt if a judge finds that the individual was unable to pay. Individuals can still be incarcerated for willful nonpayment after an individualized finding by a judge.

40/40 points

Group_21 (4)

Proportionality

Judges and municipalities have the ability to reduce fines, but there’s no statutory guidelines to make fines proportional to an individual’s ability to pay.

10/30 points

Group_21 (5)

Payment Plans

Judges and municipalities have the ability to set up payment plans for individuals, in their discretion.

15/15 points

Group_21 (6)

Community Service

Judges and municipalities have the ability to accept community service as an alternative to payment, but state law doesn’t establish any standards for this or other alternative means of payment.

5/15 points

32. IJ 50 State Survey: https://ij.org/report/fines-and-fees-home#findings https://finesandfeesjusticecenter.org/articles/first-steps-toward-equitable-fines-and-fees-practices-policy-guidance-on-ability-to-pay-assessments-payment-plans-and-community-service/