Today, excessive fines play out not just in civil forfeiture, but in many other areas in our criminal justice system. Take probation, which some people turn down to instead serve jail time because they know they cannot pay the excessive fees charged for release in the community. Or take the broken system of cash bail, in which those who can afford bail are released from jail to await trial while those who cannot are left there.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 70 percent of inmates in local jails have not been convicted of a crime. Most of those sitting in jail do so because they can’t afford bail. Countless others plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they cannot afford bail or fines and fees imposed by a judge, and see no other way to return to their jobs and families.