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San Francisco will make history on July 1 when it becomes the first jurisdiction in the nation to stop charging ex-offenders fees that keep many of them in debt and on the brink of re-offending. The overhaul also affects those found guilty of minor offenses, including traffic law violations.

The city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in May to pass an ordinance to eliminate a range of fees charged to those exiting the criminal justice system, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Under the old system, San Francisco could charge people a $50 monthly probation fee, which typically lasts for three years. Officials could also charge up to $35 a day for an electronic monitor. Across the state, running a red light could result in a $390 fee in addition to a $100 fine.

Jurisdictions in practically every state charge similar fees to people convicted of criminal offenses—from felonies to minor infractions—to help cover the cost of operating the criminal justice system.

As a practical matter in the decision to stop the fees, more than 80 percent of charges went unpaid, the Chronicle said. The fee system also disproportionately impacted low-income and minority residents.

“These financial burdens frequently hit individuals at the precise moment they are trying to turn their lives around. The vast majority of people exiting jail or prison are unemployed, have unstable housing, have no steady source of income and find work difficult or nearly impossible to obtain after release,” said San Francisco Mayor-elect London Breed, who authored the ordinance.

The fees are “an anemic and counterproductive source of revenue,” Anne Stuhldreher, director of The Financial Justice Project in the San Francisco treasurer’s office, wrote in a Sacramento Bee op-ed.

She added: “These fees are assessed on individuals who have already served time in jail, paid other fines or are paying victim restitution. They are supposed to cover costs, not create more punishment.”

San Francisco’s Supervisors hope that this change will “inspire other jurisdictions to lift this burden off of low-income families,” the ordinance said.


San Francisco Ends Excessive Court Fees That Keep Offenders In Debt was originally published on

3 thoughts on “San Francisco Ends Excessive Court Fees That Keep Offenders In Debt

  1. Only white coller criminals get bond. Blks have to sit in jail because they’re too poor to bail themselves out. Modern day slavery.

  2. tedgravely on said:

    What in the Sam Hill? So basically keeping someone on probation was a business model. You are also charged for wearing an electronic monitor. If you’re poor you might as well stay in jail. The state feeds you and you don’t have to pay the state to be free. Charlie Brown voice, “Good Grief.”

  3. This is not just occurring in San Francisco-but across this country.

    It is EASY to make $$$$ off the backs of POOR offenders.
    Some municipalities are FUNDED just by the fees they collect from folks who cannot afford to
    post bail.

    Judges need to be HELD ACCOUNTABLE for this despicable practice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Way too many CORRUPT JUDGES SIT ON WAY TOO MANY BENCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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