Ferguson, Fines, and Fees

Check out our most recent webinar produced in partnership with West LegalEdcenter, Ferguson, Fines, and Fees, to explore inspiring developments in the effort to decriminalize poverty and how pro bono lawyers can be of help.  Since the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014, St. Louis and its neighboring municipalities including Ferguson, Missouri, have been frequently cited for legal and moral failings in the region’s municipal justice system, which routinely sends thousands of people to jail because they cannot pay legal fines and fees. Poor and African-American people are disproportionately affected. The events in Ferguson, Missouri shined a spotlight on the use of local courts, jails, and police forces to generate millions of dollars in profits off the backs of our most impoverished citizens, including juveniles.  These practices devastate individuals and communities, while creating cultures of fear and resentment.

The costs associated with being a low-income offender can be overwhelming, as many states and localities charge fees and surcharges to fund the criminal justice system at every step of the process, from the courtroom to jail to probation. These may include fees for public defenders, jail fees, court administrative fees, prosecution fees, probation fees, parole fees, and more. Failure to pay these “poverty penalties” can lead to additional prison sentences or other consequences, such as the inability to obtain a driver’s license, that pose barriers to successfully re-entering society.

You’ll hear from:

  • Lisa Borden, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz*
  • Katherine Hubbard, Civil Rights Corps
  • Sonia Murphy, White & Case*
  • Sara Totonchi, Southern Center for Human Rights

CLE credit is available in many jurisdictions. The program is available on demand for free for Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Law Firms. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita for assistance accessing the program.

*  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

†  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member