Guilty And ChargedAn NPR investigation has found an explosion in the use of fees charged to criminal defendants across the country, which created a system of justice that targets the poor.
Guilty And Charged
Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn't find the jobs she needed to start earning money.
People line up to take part in an amnesty program to clear up outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants in August 2013, in Ferguson, Mo. For those living on the economic margins, the consequences of even a minor criminal violation can lead to a spiral of debt, unpaid obligations, unemployment and even arrest.
Tom Barrett returned to the convenience store where he stole a can of beer. He spent time in jail, not for the crime, but because he couldn't afford the fines and fees that went along with wearing an electronic monitoring device.
In this photo from the mid-1960s, Kirk Gable, a co-founder of the electronic monitoring belt, uses war surplus missile-tracking equipment to track young adult offenders who are wearing the first electronic monitoring devices.
Courtesy of Robert Gable
The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.