by Evan Walker
Ongoing police brutality toward People of Color — particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latino people — and efforts to shed light on the racism baked into our legal systems are contributing to a heightened public conversation of the purpose and impact of policing and prisons. A lesser-known part of our criminal legal system, however, is its sprawling network of fines and fees.
These fines ensnare people interacting with this system in devastating cycles of debt and create massive barriers to post-conviction livelihood — and they must be eliminated. Throughout Washington State and the West Coast, there is growing momentum on this issue, and legislation before State lawmakers would begin to make critical progress.
Continue reading OPINION: Washington’s Punitive System of Fines and Fees Must Be Dismantled
by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
A nonprofit representing formerly incarcerated Washington residents is suing the state and its 39 counties in an attempt to address one of the loose ends left by the state Supreme Court’s landmark opinion in February ruling all simple drug possession charges unconstitutional.
The Seattle-based Civil Survival Project filed the class action lawsuit on Thursday, April 15, in an effort to stop the state, county superior courts, and private contractors from collecting Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) tied to simple drug possession convictions. An LFO is a financial penalty that a court imposes when convicting a person of a crime; the penalty is broken into components, including a fee to cover the costs of filing the criminal case and a fee to cover the collection of a DNA sample.
Continue reading Lawsuit Challenges State and Counties to Refund Financial Penalties for Drug Charges