Funded Research by Theme

Effects of Financial Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System

Effects of Financial Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System

Michael Mueller-Smith

The use of legal financial obligations, colloquially referred to as financial sanctions, imposed on individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system is widespread and growing in the U.S. criminal justice system. These fees and fines could generate serious social and economic consequences, particularly among low-income populations who are unable to pay them on time. These costs may outweigh the intended benefits, such as deterring crime, compelling court appearances, and making restitution, of financial sanctions. The goal of this project is to evaluate the economic and social consequences of financial sanctions in the justice system on affected individuals and their families. Since fines vary widely across jurisdictions and stages of the justice system to which they are applied, this is a multi-state project that will leverage multiple natural experiments across a variety of states to document potential heterogeneous impacts and understand mediating channels.

To achieve this, researchers will use the Criminal Justice Administrative Record System (CJARS), combined with individual-level demographic and economic data held by the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, the project will link individuals to their family members to assess spillover effects on their spouses and children, significantly improving the current understanding of financial sanctions. To measure the impact of financial, researchers will leverage natural experiments from the enactment of a variety of policies on different financial sanctions across various states, using a sharp regression discontinuity for causal identification. Outcomes of interest are labor market outcomes and criminal behavior.

National Science Foundation

Funding Period: 8/1/2020 to 7/31/2023