Monetary Sanctions in Community Corrections: Law, Policy, and Their Alignment With Correctional Goals

Date01 February 2021
Published date01 February 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2021, Vol. 37(1) 108 –127
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986220971393
Monetary Sanctions in
Community Corrections:
Law, Policy, and Their
Alignment With
Correctional Goals
Ebony L. Ruhland1, Amber A. Petkus1,
Nathan W. Link2, Jordan M. Hyatt3,
Bryan Holmes1, and Symone Pate1
The assessment and collection of monetary sanctions (fines, fees, and restitution) have
become a common element of the U.S. criminal justice system, especially in community
corrections. Although the application of monetary sanctions is often dictated by state-
level legislation, court rules, and agency policy, little research has sought to organize
and systematically examine a set of these policies to compare them across several
community corrections contexts more broadly. As such, this study fills a gap in the
literature by using thematic content analysis to examine legislative policies governing
the use of monetary sanctions in six states from across the United States. Laws
and policies regarding the assessment, waiver, and collection of monetary sanctions
utilized by agencies of varying size and jurisdictional scope were considered to identify
common themes. We conclude with a discussion of whether the policies and laws
examined align with rehabilitative and punitive goals of community supervision and
highlight emerging opportunities for research and policy reform.
probation, parole, criminal justice debt, legal financial obligations, community
supervision, policy
1University of Cincinnati, OH, USA
2Rutgers University, Camden, NJ, USA
3Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ebony L. Ruhland, School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, 650 Teacher Dyer, 2610
McMicken Cir., Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA.
971393CCJXXX10.1177/1043986220971393Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeRuhland et al.
Ruhland et al. 109
As a result of their conviction, many individuals are ordered by their sentencing judge
to pay monetary sanctions. These monetary sanctions may include fines, restitution,
and several types of fees. In addition to what is ordered by the judge, fees may be
assessed by probation and parole agencies. Failure to pay these debts could result in
further legal consequences. Limited research has systematically explored the statutes
and policies that govern the assessment, collection, and enforcement of monetary
sanctions in the context of community corrections (e.g., probation, parole/supervised
release). Thus, we know little about how existing monetary sanction policies (a) guide
assessment practices, (b) influence supervisee ability to pay determinations, (c) deter-
mine individual nonpayment consequences, and (d) may vary between jurisdictions.
The current study examines policies related to the imposition and collection of
monetary sanctions in community corrections across six states. Due to space con-
straints, we concentrate on policies within three specific subtopics: (a) supervision
fees, (b) ability to pay considerations, and (c) nonpayment consequences. These
topics were selected for discussion due to their potential for comparison across juris-
dictions. Although the number and types of monetary sanctions vary widely between
states in this study, policies in nearly every state permitted some form of a supervi-
sion fee, set ability to pay criteria, and detailed consequences for nonpayment. Such
policies can have important consequences for the liberty of justice-involved indi-
viduals. In this study, we also assess the alignment of these policies with key cor-
rectional philosophies (rehabilitation, retribution, restoration, and deterrence).
Results can be used to inform future research and policy initiatives surrounding the
use of financial sanctions.
Monetary Sanctions and Community Corrections
The imposition of monetary sanctions has become increasingly routine, and their pay-
ment is now a common condition of community supervision (Harris, 2016; Travis &
Stacey, 2010). Several types of monetary sanctions exist today. Fines are imposed
upon conviction of a criminal offense, mainly for punitive reasons. In comparison,
restitution is imposed to compensate the victim(s) for losses stemming from the
offense (Beckett & Harris, 2011). Meanwhile, revenue from fees can offset the costs
associated with courts and corrections (Harris, 2016). Examples of fees include those
for electronic monitoring and substance abuse counseling. Fees could also be assessed
to pay for specialty programs and interventions (Friedman & Pattillo, 2019).
Community supervision was originally developed as an alternative to incarceration,
with a rehabilitative focus accomplished by allowing defendants to live their “normal”
lives (i.e., going to work, maintaining relationships) while receiving rehabilitative/
treatment services and supervision (Grinnell, 1941). However, the ideological focus of
community corrections has shifted over time. In the late 1980s through the 1990s, cor-
rectional populations skyrocketed, including the number of individuals on probation
and parole (Maruschak & Parks, 2012). Around the same time, Martinson’s (1974)

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