Approximately 1 in every 75 people are under probation or parole supervision in the U.S. In most states, people on probation or parole are required to pay supervision fees that can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. People also pay additional programming fees for mandatory mental health counseling, electronic monitoring, and drug testing. Nationwide, two of every three people on probation make less than $20,000 per year. Nearly 40% of those making less than $10,000 annually.Read FFJC’s latest report on probation and parole fees here.
Justice fees are hidden taxes within the criminal justice system. Their sole purpose is to raise revenue.
Both state and local governments impose fees on individuals to do things like access a lawyer when you cannot afford one, make phone calls from jail or prison, participate in community service, make payments toward fines and fees and more. The types and amounts of fees imposed on individuals differ by state and often within the specific localities of that state.
The national fee surveys map and reports below show which states authorize* some of the most ubiquitous fees including supervision fees, counsel fees, warrant fees and fees for e-supervision (or electronic monitoring).
Explore the fee types below to learn more about particular fees and how they are assessed in each state.
*Please note each fee type’s particular authorization status is based on statutes and rules. There may be local authorization affecting fees that are beyond the scope of these analyses.
Electronic monitoring fees can be imposed as a condition of probation, parole, diversion, or some other community-based sentence — or even as a condition of pretrial release for those who have not been found guilty of anything. From 2005 to 2015, the number of individuals on electronic monitors increased by nearly 140%, from 53,000 to over 125,000. Since then, this number is believed to have dramatically increased. Electronic monitoring fees can include a one-time set-up fee and a monthly, weekly, or even daily monitoring fee.Read FFJC’s latest report on electronic monitoring fees here.
A bench warrant is a legal mechanism courts can use to secure the arrest of someone who has allegedly violated a court order. A bench warrant is not proof of a violation, but rather authorization by the court to take a person into custody so they may be brought before the court. They are often related to nonpayment of a fine or fee in the criminal legal or traffic court systems. States across the country impose fees for issuing, processing, executing, or even recalling warrants. There are at least 5.7 million open warrants in the U.S, 96% of which are for minor, nonviolent, or non-criminal offenses. In many states, courts impose warrant fees, regardless of whether the person was ultimately arrested or convicted.Read FFJC’s latest report on warrant fees here.
In the US, defendants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer have a constitutional right to have one appointed to represent them at government’s expense. However, 42 states & D.C. have laws that authorize courts to impose public defense system fees — both upfront application or administrative fees, as well as fees recouping the cost of counsel — on people who are represented by court-appointed attorneys. Unpaid counsel fees can lead to civil and criminal consequences such as creditworthiness, license suspension, employment eligibility, and prolonged involvement in the criminal justice system.
A criminal record can make it hard to get a job, support a family, secure housing, vote, and ultimately pay off fines and fees. Despite efforts by numerous states to provide a path to record clearing, monetary barriers — such as the cost to apply and the requirement to satisfy all outstanding court debt — keep relief out of reach.Read NCLC’s full report on record clearing fees here.
Local jails and prisons charge incarcerated people and their families exorbitant phone call fees to stay connected. As of 2019, most state prisons charge over 1.50 per per minute for one 15-minute call in-state. Phone calls from jail cost over three times more than phone calls from state prisons. For example, a call from a Michigan jail can go as high as $22 for 15 minutes. A recent survey demonstrated that 1 in 3 families will go into debt in order to stay connected to their loved ones, and that 87% of those carrying the financial burden phone call fees are women.See the Prison Policy Institute report on phone call fees to learn more.
In most states, people incarcerated in prisons and jails pay medical co-pays for physician visits, medications, dental treatment, and other health services. Charging incarcerated people exorbitant co-pays is particularly harmful due to the fact that most people in prison or jails are not working or working for extremely low wages. Nevada, for example, charges the highest copay in the country ($8), over twice the national average. For a person earning prison wages, an 8 dollar co-pay is the equivalent of a $400 co-pay for a person who earns $50,000.See the Prison Policy Institute’s report on medical co-pays
The majority of states across the country impose fees on youth—and their families—when they become involved in the justice system. At every point in the system, a young person and their parents or guardians can be charged fees for an electronic ankle monitor, detention, probation supervision, a public defender, incarceration, and more. The young people and their families who cannot afford to pay these fees, face extended probation, additional court visits, the loss of or inability to obtain a driver’s license, and even incarceration. As these youth enter adulthood with fee debt, they also risk civil judgments, tax and wage garnishment, liens on property, and bankruptcy.Learn more about juvenile fees from the Debt Free Justice campaign.