Prison fines and fees are used to pay for basic government functions : Planet Money When you get out of prison, you have to start paying off fees. Some are related to committing a crime. Others are not. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
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Fine and Punishment

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Fine and Punishment

Fine and Punishment

Fine and Punishment

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Kayla Boyle and Teriann Van Winkle look at their fees. Sarah Gonzalez/NPR hide caption

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Sarah Gonzalez/NPR

Kayla Boyle and Teriann Van Winkle look at their fees.

Sarah Gonzalez/NPR

When you commit a crime, yes, you are entitled to an attorney, but you don't get a free attorney. You have to pay for it. You pay for a stenographer to type up your court minutes; you pay to maintain the court website and law libraries.

And there's an argument that people who use the justice system should have to pay for it. But people convicted of crimes are also paying for things that have nothing to do with committing crimes or using state resources. Like they pay into a state fund for child abuse and into another fund to support traumatic hospital cases.

Today on the show, how states rely on people with criminal records to fund basic government functions, and how it creates perverse incentives.

Music: "Smoke and Mirrors," "Jamrock We A Come From," "Porch Stompin'," and "Chicken Bone."

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