This policy brief outlines findings and policy implications from a study of the correlates of legal financial obligation (LFO) debt repayment, an increasingly important area of study for two key reasons. First, the proliferation of LFO assessments can generate substantial debt burdens for justice-involved persons to be repaid during their reentry to the community. Second, local criminal justice agencies increasingly rely on fees as a source of operating revenue, raising questions about collections policy and practice. This study focused on a specific context of LFO debt and repayment among persons sentenced to probation and transferred to a specialized collections unit. Results from statistical analyses using bivariate tests and logistic regression indicated a salience of individual-level and institutional-level factors as correlates with the likelihood of full debt repayment. Specifically, some persons will struggle to repay their LFO balances if amounts assessed are in excess of their means, even in an institutional context adopting an individualized, flexible, and non-punitive approach to collections. Discussed policy implications suggest a need for reform at the point of LFO assessment to avoid imposing obligations that are unreasonable to individuals’ ability to repay.

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