Interacting with the criminal justice system is an expensive proposition. Its reliance on bail to encourage return after pretrial release, on fines to punish and provide restitution, and on fees to fund the system implies that an individual’s economic means may determine how burdensome any interaction is. These nine economic facts characterize the current use of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system, highlighting the economic and social costs that they pose to defendants and society.
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.
In this paper Michael Makowsky of Clemson University describes how the reliance of local governments on fees, fines, and asset forfeiture for revenue generation shapes law enforcement activities. Makowsky proposes a set of reforms that would decouple the revenue collection from the public safety objectives of law enforcement. Breaking this link would realign the criminal justice system with its traditional public safety goals.
Policy debates often focus only on major decisions made in Washington, DC. But for many Americans, the decisions made much closer to home have just as large, if not larger, effects on day-to-day life. These nine economic facts highlight the important economic roles of state and local governments, emphasizing how their budgetary and regulatory decisions affect access to opportunity. Transportation and land-use policy receive particular attention given their large impacts on the patterns of economic activity.
Policymakers at the state and local levels tackle some of the toughest problems facing society. To make measurable progress in solving these problems, public policy needs to be effective, efficient, and evidence based. Justine Hastings of Brown University draws on her experiences founding Research Improving People’s Lives (RIPL), a nonprofit research–policy partnership in Rhode Island that aims to make state policy more fact based and more effective through the creation of an integrated database of state administrative data and derived tables. She provides best practices for creating the database and using it effectively to derive policy insights.
High regional inequality is driven, in part, by local land-use regulations that prevent low- and middle-income workers from accessing high-productivity places. In this paper, Daniel Shoag of Harvard Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve University discusses the problems with current housing policies and their effects on economic growth and mobility. To remove these barriers, the author outlines local, state, and federal policy initiatives that can boost housing supply in booming parts of the country.