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Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Re-Entry They Create

HarvardKennedySchool_squareThis report from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Community Corrections discusses the long-term and unintended consequences of criminal justice financial obligations (CJFOs): fines, forfeiture of property, court fees, supervision fees, and restitution. The authors find that CJFOs are imposed at multiple stages of justice involvement, generating complexities that are difficult to navigate for both individuals and system actors alike. Additionally, financial sanctions are usually imposed without regard for people’s ability to pay, and yet failure to pay can trigger additional monetary and criminal sanctions. To address the individual and social costs of CJFOs, this report presents recommendations in seven areas.