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State bills offenders for public defenders, probation, room and board and more

NPR study shows Minnesota asks offenders to pay up for court costs

The State of Minnesota charges defendants and offenders for just about everything it can, according to a new report from National Public Radio.

NPR conducted a year-long survey all 50 states and concluded that the costs of the criminal justice system are paid for by offenders. And if they can’t afford the fees, they get sent to a 21st Century Debtor’s Prison.

Jared Thornburg was ticketed for making an illegal left turn. He went to court and the offense was dropped to driving a “defective vehicle,” a ticket with $165 worth of fines and fees. At the time, he was homeless and unemployed. He had recently lost a job at an oil field after a serious workplace injury. So he couldn’t pay the ticket. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Defendants are charged for a list of services that were once free, some of them are constitutionally required, and for things like regular drug and alcohol testing and technology like electronic monitors that can help them avoid jail time.

Defendants in Washington State are billed $250 for a 12-person jury trial.

IN Minnesota, defendants and offenders are charged for every category that NPR tracked (electronic monitoring, probation or supervision, public defenders or legal costs and room and board) and the state has increased civil and criminal court fees since 2010.

The full report is available here.



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