As economic sanctions imposed with a criminal conviction proliferate nation-wide, reformers have fought for and won the institutionalization of ability-to-pay determinations. While often viewed as a victory in the effort to end the criminali- zation of poverty, there is a substantial risk that ability-to-pay determinations may actually exacerbate the exact problem they seek to address. Drawing on a 50-state survey of codified ability to pay standards, this article problematizes the practice of ability-to-pay determinations. I argue that ability-to-pay determinations at best reduce court debt burdens and at worse represent a neoliberal racial project that serves to redistribute resources from Black families to state governments in a regressive taxation scheme that exacerbates the racial economic divide. While there is growing scholarly discourse on criminal court debt, this article is the first to apply a critical race theory analysis to scrutinize ability-to-pay determinations as a state-based attempt to neutralize calls for more systemic reforms to penal debt. It is through this lens that this article describes the ways in which ability-to-pay determinations require invasive inquiries into a defendant’s financial resources,apply under-inclusive criteria to define “indigency,” and invoke implicit or explicit racial biases. Moreover, the institutional players who implement ability-to-pay determinations have a vested interest in collection that increases their propensity to assess more rather than less, and the government bureaucracies in which they operate are commonly regarded as racialized structures that both generate and perpetuate race-based outcomes in the criminal justice system. Ultimately, this article cautions reformers to more critically consider the place of ability-to-pay determinations in movements for racial and economic justice.
This article aims to point out that the understanding of freedom in the U.S. legal system is too narrow since it disregards other significant aspects of freedom.
Luke Herrine∞ Abstract This article argues that, despite being the least discriminatory form of underwriting in history, consumer credit reporting can reinforce and deepen systemic inequalities. Credit reports can create two sorts of vicious cycles, which can contribute to cycles
Voting rights advocates should explore section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act as a vehicle to combat voter intimidation.
Beth Caldwell∞ Abstract This article presents findings from a study on the implementation of California’s new Youth Offender Parole Hearing law, which aims to provide juvenile offenders with meaningful opportunities to obtain release from adult prison. It contributes to the