San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform fees and fines that have a disproportionate and adverse impact on low-income residents and communities of color.
Local governments and courts have long levied fines and fees, as sanction for unlawful behavior and to cover costs. There is often an insidious unintended impact of this practice---to push people into poverty. These fines and fees can knock people down so hard they can’t get back up. Poor people and people of color are usually hit the hardest. These financial penalties can make government a driver of inequality, not an equalizer.
The Financial Justice Project was launched in November 2016 with the publication of an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Financial Justice Project is housed in the Office of the San Francisco Treasurer, the entity in charge of revenue collection for the City and County. Together we work with city and county departments, the courts and community organizations to enact reforms that result in meaningful change for low-income San Franciscans. Since our launch we have eliminated or adjusted dozens of fees of fines and lifted tens of millions of dollars in debt off of tens of thousands of people. These accomplishments are not ours alone. We achieved them through working in partnership with many others.