The Cost of Justice: The Impact of Criminal Justice Financial Obligations on Individuals and Families

Published: August, 2018

Monetary penalties, such as court costs, fees, and fines, are common sanctions levied by the criminal justice system. While these sanctions are used to offset court operations’ costs, the financial burden disproportionately impacts those from lower socioeconomic levels and minority communities. This article summarizes survey findings gleaned from a population of justice-involved individuals to gain insight into the impacts of court costs, fees, and fines on individuals and families in Illinois. Most respondents reported receiving no explanation of their financial obligations, made less than $15,000, and had to forgo basic needs to pay legal debts.