Court costs make poverty worse and more enduring

Writing in today's New York Times, Erik Eckholm explains in Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Offenders that

Fines, fees and restitution mandates are levied on juvenile offenders to varying degrees in every state, a new national survey of these practices has found. The effects are greatest on the poor and racial minorities, creating a two-tiered system of justice, according to the report, published by the Juvenile Law Center, a legal aid and advocacy group in Philadelphia. * * * A new analysis of juvenile cases in the Pittsburgh area found that unrealistic fines and fees contribute to recidivism and have an unequal effect on nonwhite offenders. Nonwhite offenders owed more on average than white offenders at the time their cases were closed, said Alex R. Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas and an author of the study, which will be published in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. Even accounting for the severity of offenses, those who owed the most were more likely to be rearrested.

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