Today, we’re so proud to announce that ten cities and counties were selected for the inaugural class of Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice!
These localities won a national competition to join a leadership network pursuing bold, innovative solutions to reform unjust fines and fees. These local leaders are rethinking their reliance on fines and fees levied on residents for infractions large and small. In recent years a growing national movement has emerged to reform ineffective fine and fee policies that drive racial injustice, economic inequality, and mass criminalization.
Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice is a network facilitated by PolicyLink, The Fines and Fees Justice Center, and The San Francisco Financial Justice Project. Cities and counties selected for the inaugural class are listed below:
The selected cities and counties are awarded $50,000 and access to technical expertise and guidance, along with membership in a cohort of other teams to develop customized solutions with community input. The newly selected jurisdictions will work together over the course of 18 months to develop and implement reforms to fines and fees, sharing approaches and breakthroughs within the network and with other cities and counties.
It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since San Francisco launched The Financial Justice Project to assess and reform our fines and fees that were bearing down on low-income people and communities of color. Our goal was to advance smart solutions, that work better for people and for government. San Francisco has now eliminated or created low-income discounts for dozens of fees and fines, and lifted millions of dollars in debt off of thousands of San Franciscans.
“In San Francisco, many of our fines and fees were putting people in significant financial distress with little gain for the government due to low collection rates,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “Our reforms give people a fighting chance to succeed and are manageable for government to implement. We’re thrilled to work with other cities and counties across the country that want to do the same.”
Given the COVID-19 health and economic emergency, this work is more important than ever.
“The economic fallout from COVID-19 will surely strain our budgets, but the crisis will strain the household budgets of our most vulnerable residents even more,” said Mayor Breed. “We need to continue to focus on this work moving forward so we don't further strain the inequality we see in our cities.”
San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project, led by Treasurer José Cisneros, has made fines more fair and gotten rid of fees that do not make sense. “Over the past three years we’ve learned through these reforms that we can hold people accountable without putting them in financial distress,” said Treasurer Cisneros. “And we can balance our budgets in common sense ways that are not on the backs of the least fortunate people in our communities.”
We look forward to partnering with these ten cities and counties and spreading solutions to reform unjust fines and fees. Onward!