May 18, 2020
Since the launch of The Financial Justice Project in 2016, we have achieved significant reforms, learned a lot, and encountered challenges we did not anticipate. We’re excited to release a new report to share our experiences and celebrate our reforms to local fines and fees in San Francisco. We hope that this report will be useful for other people who want to advance reforms in their localities.
In the last three and a half years, we have worked with community organizations, government departments, and the courts to propose and implement reforms to fines, fees, and financial penalties. Working together, we have lifted tens of millions of dollars in debt off thousands of San Franciscans. Our focus has been on fines, fees, and financial penalties that are high pain for people—causing financial distress—and low gain for government, where the collection rates are very low. We have made fines more fair and gotten rid of fees that don’t make sense. We have eliminated or created low-income discounts for dozens of fines and fees. The reforms remove barriers for people that prevent them from succeeding. The solutions are doable for government to implement are starting to spread to other places.