Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Mitigating Criminal Justice Debt in Pierce County, Prof. Karin Martin (WCPC Seminar Series, 3/11/2019)

Posted: 3/4/2019 (Local Events)

Karin Martin, UW Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
*Q&A until 2:00 pm

School of Social Work, Room 305A

This project explores the interconnections between criminal justice system involvement, court-ordered debt, and poverty, in partnership with a Tacoma-based community organization. Two research questions motivate the project: 1) what is the nature and extent of criminal justice debt in Pierce County Courts? And, 2) what policy interventions can attenuate the social costs of court-ordered debt for low-income residents? To address these questions, the project draws on monetary sanction and sentencing data from Washington State’s Administrative Office of the Courts, in addition to focus groups with residents who owe money to the courts. We find that Pierce County courts (municipal, district, superior) assessed more than $332 million in monetary sanctions between 2011 and 2017, generating approximately $228 million in outstanding criminal justice debt—with significant racial disparities. Focus group participants report being trapped in a cycle of poverty penalization that includes being subject to incarceration, having cars impounded, and being assessed even more monetary sanctions stemming from the inability to pay the initial criminal justice debt. Housing insecurity, forgoing necessities (e.g. groceries, utility bills), and driver’s license suspension were common in our sample. Our analysis points to a number of policy changes that could reduce the harm of criminal justice debt in Pierce County.

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Date: 03/11/2019

Time: 12:30-1:30 PM

Location: School of Social Work, Room 305A