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Fines, Fees, and the Price of Justice

Family Reconciliation Center is part of a long and winding road for those whose relatives are part of the criminal justice system.

Consider court fines, parole fees, surcharges, and related financial barriers as an example of the things that divide. While on the surface, a court fee makes sense—after all, any court or parole system has costs associated with operating, and offenders are part of those costs.

But like many other parts of life, the fees hit those in our society with the lowest income the hardest, and those with the lowest income are often those who find themselves caught in the web of incarceration costs. This is occurring at a time when governments are struggling to find revenue, so some fees are increasing at a time when parolees or offenders can least afford them.

A group called No Price on Justice is working to end legal system fees and find more equitable ways to fund the government in New York state. The organization says fines and fees “criminalize poverty and endanger Black and brown lives.”

They are supporting proposals like that from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is calling for the end of parole supervisory fees, or the End Predatory Court Fees Act, introduced in the N.Y. Legislature.

Though New York and Tennessee often don't agree on many policy approaches, Family Reconciliation Center still serves the relatives of inmates from New York and many other states around the country. And now may be the time to shine a light on this issue and come to a position we can all agree on.

To find out more on efforts in New York, read about the No Price on Justice’s campaign here.

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