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Brennan Center Says Justice System Driven By Need To Produce Revenue

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Revenue Over Public Safety: How Perverse Financial Incentives Warp the Criminal Justice System, catalogs the ways the group says that the justice system is driven by revenue-generating practices instead of keeping communities safe. The report's authors offer policy recommendations for realigning the system's priorities so that revenue generation doesn't drive the justice system’s priorities, which Brennan says should be about fairness, equity, and public safety. "Revenue Over Public Safety" breaks down various aspects of the criminal justice system that provide revenue for local governments, and how these practices get in the way of maintaining public safety and seeking justice.

The report covers user-funded justice. Criminal justice entities often generate revenue that they need to operate from the very people whom they arrest, detain, charge, prosecute, supervise, and incarcerate. These revenue streams include criminal fines (financial penalties that accompany convictions for various offenses), criminal fees (charges created solely to raise revenue that cover a wide range of procedures and processes, including but not limited to public defense fees, crime lab fees, and jail admission fees), and civil asset forfeiture (practice of seizing an asset such as cash or a car suspected to have been used in alleged criminal activity).