Amid the growing interest in the legal and collateral consequences of criminal justice contact is a focus on monetary sanctions, including a full accounting of their impacts on individuals, families, communities, and system-related goals. Prior studies have highlighted a number of harms related to these sanctions, especially for those experiencing the notably turbulent period after being released from incarceration. One of the key claims heard with increased frequency is that these accrued debts encourage people to reoffend, minimizing individuals’ chances of successful reintegration and challenging fundamental goals of the system. Assuming the claim is true, policy implications could be wide-ranging, from the implementation of services to scaling back or abolishing certain financial sanctions altogether. In this Article, however, I note that there are a limited number of studies that have assessed whether financial sanctions engender reoffending and the findings are mixed. I then report results from an additional test that examines this association among a sample of men from three states and find no significant effects. I conclude that, while there are several strong reasons to support large scale reform of financial sanctioning systems, the literature suggests that the specific question concerning reoffending—whom these sanctions impact in this way and under what conditions—requires further theoretical and empirical development.
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Research Article| February 01 2022
Is There a Link Between Criminal Debt and Recidivism in Reentry?
Federal Sentencing Reporter (2022) 34 (2-3): 188–192.
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Nathan W. Link; Is There a Link Between Criminal Debt and Recidivism in Reentry?. Federal Sentencing Reporter 1 February 2022; 34 (2-3): 188–192. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fsr.2022.34.2-3.188
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