Billions of $ in court debt is barely even tracked by over half of U.S. states

A report from The Fines & Fees Justice Center found court debt is a least $27.6 billion but half of states couldn't even report debt due to lack of data

We go to The Fines & Fees Justice Center for this weeks report on debt in the U.S. justice system. Though court debt impacts state citizens and state’s budgets in massive ways, half of the country is not even tracking how much debt people owe, according to the report.

National court debt total is at least $27.6 billion

  • Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia did not provide court debt totals to FFJC.

  • Most U.S. states lack oversight of local courts. These municipal courts each control their own collection procedures and record keeping which means procedures vary across the jurisdiction.

  • From the data available to FFJC, Washington had the highest per capita debt ($426) then Virginia ($363), California ($347), Oregon ($344) and Iowa ($312).

  • “The astonishing lack of data on outstanding court debt strongly suggests that state and local governments do not have a basic understanding of how the fines and fees imposed by their courts are affecting people in their state — or the state’s bottom line,” FFCJ wrote in the report.

Read the full report here.

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