Arise 2020: Stop criminal justice debt from putting thousands of lives on hold

Criminal justice debt shouldn’t prevent a person from building a stable, secure life. But Alabama imposes millions of dollars in fines every year without considering a person’s ability to pay them. The state also conditions many rights and privileges, often including voting rights restoration, on whether a person has repaid fines.

Further, despite a prohibition on “debtors’ prisons,” thousands of Alabamians are at risk of going to jail or are driven further into poverty because they can’t afford to pay costs attached to the criminal justice system. And Alabama authorities routinely use civil asset forfeiture to take property from people without even proving they committed a crime.

Alabama can build a justice system that doesn’t rely on overly punitive fines. We can build a system that doesn’t make people with low incomes pay for the actions the state takes against them. We can build a system that doesn’t take people’s property without criminal convictions.

Our fact sheet shows a better path forward. My colleague Carol Gundlach and I examine numerous reforms that Alabama could make to end abusive criminal justice debt practices and make the state’s actions fit basic ideas of fairness.

We need you with us as we push for needed reforms to Alabama’s criminal justice system. Please join Alabama Arise or renew your membership today to add your voice to our chorus for change. Together, we can build a better Alabama!