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“What is the Price of Justice?”

People in communities of color who are struggling to achieve economic security often find themselves burdened by court-ordered financial obligations that they have no ability to pay. Frequently, this results in people being incarcerated in local jails due to courts’ unwillingness to examine, or disregard of, each person’s financial circumstances. Recognizing these harms, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently given state and local courts urgent notice that many common practices used to enforce collection of such debts may violate an individual’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection or, more likely, due process. According to the DOJ, these practices may also violate federal civil rights law.

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