Paid in Full: A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans

Paid in Full: A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans

The use of money bail, fines, and court fees — which in 2018 accounted for a quarter of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court budget — has long driven New Orleans' high jail incarceration rate without making the city safer and has disproportionately affected poor African-American families, a report from the Vera Institute of Justice argues. However, according to the report, Paid in Full: A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans (68 pages, PDF), the city council and court are taking steps to eliminate cash bail and conviction fees for municipal offenses and replace those revenues. The report offers a blueprint for aligning court practices with a fairer, safer, more financially stable system of justice, including changes in criminal district court practices designed to secure direct municipal funding for the court system and the offices of the public defender and district attorney; reducing pretrial fees, with the aim of freeing judges up to make fairer decisions about whom to release pretrial; and fully eliminating fines and fees imposed at conviction. In addition to reducing unnecessary, unfair, harmful, and costly incarceration, such reforms, the report's authors argue, will generate savings of between $3.7 million and $8.3 million annually for the city; reduce the disproportionate financial burden of money bail and conviction fees on African-American families; and enhance public safety.