Twice Punished: Perceived Procedural Fairness and Legitimacy of Monetary Sanctions

AuthorKimberly R. Kras,Breanne Pleggenkuhle,Beth M. Huebner
Published date01 February 2021
Date01 February 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2021, Vol. 37(1) 88 –107
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986220965035
Twice Punished: Perceived
Procedural Fairness and
Legitimacy of Monetary
Breanne Pleggenkuhle1, Kimberly R. Kras2,
and Beth M. Huebner3
Legal financial obligations (LFOs) are routinely assessed by the courts and corrections
agencies. Yet, little is known about how individuals under correctional supervision
experience and perceive legal debt. Understanding perceptions of LFOs is critical as
research suggests that individuals who believe that criminal justice sanctions are fair
and just are more likely to perceive the system as legitimate and comply. The current
study examines in-depth interview data with individuals on probation or parole to
understand perspectives of LFOs and what factors may condition these views. The
results suggest that participants’ views are quite varied—expressing that they deserve
some level of financial punishment, particularly in restitution cases, but they question
additional costs that are not directly linked to the circumstances of the case, such
as supervision fees, that exacerbate a perceived experience of double jeopardy or
contradict the perceived purpose of the monetary assessment. Subgroup analyses
suggest that individuals with a conviction for a sexual offense have secondary financial
sanctions that deepen perceptions of inequities in the system.
legal financial obligations, community corrections, procedural justice, sex offenses
1Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL, USA
2San Diego State University, CA, USA
3University of Missouri–St. Louis, MO, USA
Corresponding Author:
Breanne Pleggenkuhle, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1263 Lincoln Dr, Carbondale, IL 62901,
965035CCJXXX10.1177/1043986220965035Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticePleggenkuhle et al.
Pleggenkuhle et al. 89
Legal financial obligations (LFOs) are increasingly commonplace in the criminal jus-
tice system. LFOs assigned at sentencing in the forms of fines, fees, court costs, and
restitution are a nearly ubiquitous experience for system-involved individuals
(Fernandes et al., 2019; Martin et al., 2018). There has also been a parallel growth in
the assessment of costs associated with correctional supervision (Pleggenkuhle, 2018;
Ruhland, 2019; Ruhland et al., 2017). There is emerging evidence that suggests that
monetary sanctions can complicate the reintegration process for individuals under cor-
rectional supervision (Harris et al., 2010; Pleggenkuhle, 2018) and can have negative
effects on postconviction success (Heaton et al., 2017; Ruhland, 2019) including
higher rates of recidivism (Iratzoqui & Metcalfe, 2017; Piquero & Jennings, 2017).
Much remains to be learned about individual perceptions of, and experience with,
LFOs, particularly people under community supervision. The current research explores
how the assessment and collection of LFOs affect system-involved individual’s com-
munity supervision experiences and views of the criminal justice system. The proce-
dural justice and legitimacy frameworks provide a theoretical context for understanding
how individuals perceive the imposition of LFOs as part of the larger apparatus of
correctional control (Bottoms & Tankebe, 2012; Tyler, 1990, 2003). This work adds to
the literature in several important ways. First, although most of the current work on
monetary sanctions centers on detailing their prevalence and scope, we document the
lived experience of people who owe LFOs and how they perceive the legitimacy of
these sanctions. Most existing work on procedural justice and legitimacy focuses on
citizen contacts with the police, particularly men of color living in urban areas
(Brunson & Wade, 2019; Brunson & Weitzer, 2009; Desmond et al., 2016; Tyler,
2004), with much less known about how citizens perceive community supervision
including supervision costs. Second, this study draws from a rich and broad qualitative
data set of individuals under correctional control, which includes an oversampling of
individuals convicted of a sexual offense. Members of this offense subgroup are sub-
ject to additional legal oversight, including registration, mandated treatment, and poly-
graph examinations, many of which come with requisite costs (Kras et al., 2018).
However, little is known about perceptions of economic sanctions among individuals
convicted of different crimes. This work compares the perceptions of LFOs among
individuals who have a sexual offense conviction with those with other conviction
types. Finally, this work emphasizes the nuance underlying the varied collateral costs
related to conviction and correctional supervision that are often combined in prior
Economic sanctions are commonplace in the criminal legal system (Martin et al.,
2018). Broadly termed LFOs, individuals with criminal convictions can be held legally
responsible for financial assessments such as court costs, restitution orders, fines,

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