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Study Links Cities' Fines And Fees With Killings By Police

Predatory fines and fees imposed by municipalities are not just ineffective and destructive to Black and Latino communities, they can also be deadly, finds the first study focused on how those penalties correlate to police killings and race, Reuters reports. Criminal justice fines and fees include a wide range of charges that municipalities attach to the judicial process, from general "court fees" that fund the justice system itself, to debts like fines for "victim compensation" when someone is convicted of drug possession.· The study parsed the data of 2,716 municipalities from 2009-2018 and classified them by cities, suburbs and rural towns.

Police in municipalities that rely more on fines and fees kill more people, says the analysis by Brenden Beck, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver. That holds true for large cities, suburbs and rural towns too--and regardless of actual crime rates, or how one measures fines (for example, per number of residents versus as a proportion of the total budget). Beck found that municipalities that increased the percent of their budgets from fines by 1% experienced a 4% percent increase in police killings. Places with larger Black populations rely the most on fine and fee revenue--especially suburbs with large and growing Black populations. The more Black people there are in a municipality, by percentage, the more likely that city, town or village is to rely on predatory fines and fees, Beck found. The findings corroborate the kind of longstanding narratives coming from poorer communities of color about being targeted and bilked for revenue--like in Ferguson, Mo., even before the Justice Department came to town.


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