San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform how fees and fines impact our cities’ most vulnerable residents.
Too often government programs and courts levy fines and fees on people, partly to generate revenue to balance public budgets. 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.
In our first year we plan to:
1) Build our collective understanding of the problem and potential solutions;
2) Staff a Fines and Fees Task Force, and put forward reforms that work for San Franciscans, the City, and our community;
3) Tell the real life stories of how people suffer from financial injustice;
4) Share our financial justice agenda with other cities
Read more here about The Financial Justice Project.
SF Financial Justice Project op-ed in the Washington Monthly. Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher describes how struggling cities increasingly rely on steep fines and penalties that take a toll on those who can least afford them. Check out the op-ed here.
The SF Financial Justice Projects presents on webinar: How Fines and Fees Strip Wealth from Low-income Communities. The Financial Justice Project joined our colleagues at PolicyLink and The Ford Foundation to share the the latest research and strategies that state and local leaders can use to ensure that fines and fees do not contribute to burdensome debt, housing and employment barriers, and imprisonment and recidivism for low-income communities and people of color. We explored strategies that preserve assets for low-income individuals, particularly people of color, which ultimately can help reduce the racial wealth gap. Click here to view the webinar. Thanks to the Asset Funders Network for hosting this webinar.
Financial Justice Project named “An Innovator That is Changing America.” Check out this CityPalooza profile on The Financial Justice Project’s work to right-size fines and fees for low-income residents.
Do the Math: Money Bail Doesn't Add Up for San Francisco The Financial Justice project releases showing that nonrefundable bail fees strip $10-15 million per year from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color and offers recommendations for reform. The report has been covered by KQED's California Report, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and ABC7 news. Treasurer José Cisneros authored this “op-chart” in the San Francisco Chronicle to show the inequitable impact of money bail on struggling San Franciscans.
SF Fines & Fees Task Force report generates national, statewide, and local news coverage! Our report and recommendations for reform have sparked discussion across the country. The Nation highlighted our recommended reforms in an article entitled “These cities aren’t waiting for Trump to self-destruct, they’re fighting back now.” Our report was also covered on KQED’s California Report and in Bay Area print and TV news coverage.
The San Francisco Fines & Fees Task Force releases its Initial Findings and Recommendations! City and County departments and community organizations came together to develop recommendations to reform the inequitable burden of fines, fees, and financial penalties on low income San Franciscans and communities of color. The Financial Justice Project coordinated the Task Force. Here are links to the report, press release, and executive summary.
NPR's All Things Considered profiles The Financial Justice Project! Listen here to the story : "San Francisco program aims to make fines more fair for the poor”
The Financial Justice Project goes to Washington! Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher was honored to join Melody Barnes and Reverend Starsky Wilson at The Arena Stage in Washington DC. for a 30-minute riveting discussion: The Price of Being Poor: How Fines and Fees Entrench Inequality and What Has to Change. You can watch the discussion here Their panel was part of a great day at the Aspen Institute’s Summit on Inequality and Opportunity. Reverend Starsky Wilson is the President and CEO of The Deaconess Foundation and co-chaired The Ferguson Commission. Melody Barnes is the Chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and is the former Director of The Domestic Policy Council under President Obama.
Juvenile Fees Are Self Defeating. The Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher calls on California to stop charging fees to parents whose children our locked up in juvenile halls. It’s time to put families before fees, Stuhldreher writes. Check out her Sacramento Bee op-ed.
Check out "Charged"-- a profile of The Financial Justice Project The California Sunday Magazine
Treasurer José Cisneros announces The Financial Justice Project in this op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. He writes: “I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable when our local government levies fines on people who cannot afford to pay them. Basically, we are guilty of a form of predatory government”
On January 31, Treasurer José Cisneros testified on at a statewide hearing on our system of bail. The Treasurer stated: “I firmly believe that when City and County resources are spent to keep people in jail, the decision should be based on the risk they pose to our communities, not on the money they have in their bank accounts.” Treasurer Cisneros also spoke to the need for increased oversight of the private bail bond system, the discriminatory nature of bail for low income communities, and the amount of wealth bail strips from San Francisco’s low income neighborhoods. Read the Treasurer’s full testimony here.
Director of Financial Justice Anne Stuhldreher describes how 30 states restrict the voting rights of Americans who owe fines and fees to the criminal justice system. Read this election day op-ed she co-authored in The Washington Post.