Our Year in Financial Justice

December 18, 2020

Dear Partners in Financial Justice,
2020 has been a year of unprecedented struggle. As institutions reckon with the ongoing inequities caused by COVID-19 and systemic racism, our team at The Financial Justice Project has worked with our partners to ensure that fines and fees do not adversely impact the most vulnerable people in our City. We are deeply grateful for your partnership and support; the movement for Financial Justice could not happen without you.  

In our fourth year, we acted quickly to implement new pandemic-related discounts, fought to bring reforms nationwide, and strengthened our relationships with impacted communities. Below is a snapshot of what we accomplished together in 2020.

Top 10 Financial Justice Accomplishments

Cash1. Took swift action to alleviate the burden of government fines, fees, and collections during the COVID-19 crisis, working with many departments and the courts to create meaningful relief. Read more here


People Over Profits Logo2. Passed the People Over Profits Ordinance in San Francisco, to permanently ban the City from profiting off of incarcerated people and their families from jail phone calls, commissary items, and other services. 


Towing Image3. Created deeper towing and booting discounts for people with lower incomes, and one-time towing and boot fine waivers for people experiencing homelessness, working with the SFMTA and community partners. Read more here

Phone4. Made all phone calls from San Francisco jails free, lifting a formidable financial burden off of incarcerated people and their families. Incarcerated people are now spending 50% more time in communications with their loved ones, thanks to the SF Sheriff’s Office, Mayor London Breed, and community partners. Read more here

MUNI5. Improved transit equity by creating the Access Pass — a free MUNI pass for people experiencing homelessness — in partnership with the SFMTA and community advocates. Read more here



Hygiene Products6. Stopped profiting off items in the jail store/commissary, reducing prices by an average of 43%. San Francisco is the first in the nation to make jail phone calls free AND eliminate commissary markups, working in partnership with Mayor Breed, the Sheriff, and many community partners. Read more here.   

Traffic Light7. Launched the MyCitations Online Tool for people who are struggling with traffic court debt. We worked with the San Francisco Superior Court and community groups to launch MyCitations, a new online tool to request a discount of 80% or more on traffic court citations. Read more here


Scales8. Co-sponsored and passed AB 1869, the Families Over Fees Actwith the Debt Free Justice California coalition. Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1869 in September 2020, making California the first state in the country to repeal 23 administrative fees imposed on people in the criminal legal system and lifting $16 billion in unpayable debt off of low-income communities of color. This builds on our local work to make San Francisco the first county in the country to repeal all locally controlled criminal administrative fees. 


Gavel Over Money9. Brought the movement for Financial Justice nationwide by working with 10 localities in the Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice network, along with PolicyLink and the Fines and Fees Justice Center to bring reform to other parts of the country. Read more here


Financial Justice Project Logo10. Shared our lessons and experiences by releasing Advancing Financial Justice in San Francisco, a report sharing The Financial Justice Project’s experiences and celebrating our reforms to local fines and fees in San Francisco. We also released Driving Toward Justice, to highlight our experience that ending driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic tickets helps communities without impacting court collections. And finally...

BONUS: We made a three-minute explainer video, "Everything You Think You Know About California Child Support Is Wrong," narrated by W. Kamau Bell and Robert Reich, in partnership with the Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition. The video been viewed more than 200,000 times!

And more! To see a full list of our fine and fee discounts, check out our Fine & Fee Discount Guide here

This year has made clear that there is a better way: fine and fee reform uplifts vulnerable communities, makes government more efficient, and makes our society more equitable, especially during the pandemic.

Looking forward, The Financial Justice Project is excited to work with each of you in 2021 to bring even more reforms to our city, state, and country. 

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!

Yours in Financial Justice, 
Anne, Michelle, and Shawn