Statutory inequality: The logics of monetary sanctions in state law

Brittany Friedman, Mary Pattillo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Monetary sanctions mandated in state statutes include fines, fees, restitution, and other legal costs imposed on persons convicted of crimes and other legal violations. Drawing on content analysis of current legislative statutes in Illinois pertaining to monetary sanctions, we ask three questions: What are defendants expected to pay for and why? What accommodations exist for defendants’ poverty? What are the consequences for nonpayment? We find that neoliberal logics of personal responsibility and carceral expansion suffuse these laws, establishing a basis for transferring public costs onto criminal defendants, offering little relief for poverty, and supporting severe additional penalties for unpaid debt. Statutory inequality legally authorizes further impoverishment of the poor, thereby increasing inequality. Major related organizing and advocacy work, however, has created an opening for significant changes toward greater fairness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-196
Number of pages24
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Criminal statutes
  • Legal financial obligations
  • Monetary sanctions
  • Poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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