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.
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.