Letter: Court fines lack sense

June 8, 2014 

An investigative report by National Public Radio found that the cost of the justice system in the United States is increasingly charged to the defendants.

In Benton County, 25 percent of the inmates are not in jail for their misdemeanor charge but because they failed to pay court fines and fees. The county collected $13 million in 2012.

Sociologist Alexes Harris at the University of Washington, who is writing a book on court fees and people struggling to pay them, stated that those jailed for nonpayment tend to be African-Americans, Latinos, high school dropouts, people with mental illness and people suffering from substance abuse. She goes on to state that these are already very poor and marginalized people in our society, then we impose these fiscal penalties and expect that they make regular payments, when in fact the vast majority is unable to do so.

The May 4t Herald stated that the Benton County jail was overcrowded. To reduce overcrowding and allow people to get their lives back on track, yet still receive punishment, Benton County should adopt a reasonable New Jersey program where nearly 4,500 people with unpaid fines and fees got significant reductions.

LORA RATHBONE, Richland

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