Legal system fines and fees can trap people of limited means in cycles of debt, and even incarceration, lasting for years. As we work to support efforts towards the long-term goal of decriminalizing poverty altogether, this brief gives an overview of an important near-term reform: ability-to-pay assessment tools.
The report offers guidance on how to ensure a tool that is efficient, accurate, systematic, and effective. Yet the brief also concludes that, on their own, the tools are far from sufficient to ensure fairness—from either a racial or socioeconomic standpoint. The authors conclude the use of any such tool must be part of a larger set of policy, practice, and system-wide reforms.