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On March 15, The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution will host a forum exploring reforms to monetary sanctions, including bail, fines, fees, and forfeitures.
The use of monetary sanctions to punish crimes ranging from minor traffic or public order offenses to the most serious felonies is ubiquitous in the United States. Nationally, millions of people hold billions of dollars of criminal debt from past monetary sanctions, much of which is regarded as uncollectible because of the limited financial resources of the debtors. In this paper, Beth Colgan of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law describes the harms associated with unmanageable monetary sanctions as well as the evidence from day-fines pilot projects. Colgan builds on this evidence to propose a system for graduating sanctions according to ability to pay.