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Since 2018, the Liman Center at Yale Law School and Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP), in partnership with the Fines &Fees Justice Center and the BerkeleyLawPolicy Advocacy Clinic, have collaborated to mitigate the problems faced by peopleof limited means and resources who interact with criminal punishmentsystems around the United States.Through a series of workshops and materials, we have examined how law has enabledand, on occasion, limitedtheseharms, experienced disproportionately by communities of color.

Budget pressures are part of what drivesstate and local governmentsto rely on monetary sanctions.Reform effortshave, at times, beenstymied by arguments that governments “need” the money generated byregressive fines and fees. In 2008, during and afterthe Great Recession, state and local governments responded to sudden budget pressures by searching for new streams of revenues—includingfrom a host of legal assessments. Given that experience, we know that the economic disruptions created by the current COVID-19crisiswill likely result ingovernments’consideringadditional use of monetary sanctions and “user”fee financing to generate revenue.The current economic constraints place strains on subnational budgets even more acute than those experienced a dozen years ago. Thus, we fear that governments may scale up the imposition and the enforcement of monetary sanctions. More tools are needed to resist these efforts, as the economic effects of the pandemicwill frame the years to come.

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Fees, Fines,and theFunding of Public Services