Updated: Apr 13, 2022
A whopping $481,065 in court debt was waived on March 29, 2022, giving 216 Rhode Islanders the ability to move on from past mistakes and continue to keep their lives on the right track.
75 people had $103,385 in District Court debt waived
27 had $22,747 in debt dating back at least five years waived
114 people had $354,933 in Superior Court debt waived
The Nonviolence Institute hosted this event, as well as the first court debt review event that was held in November 2021. NVI Executive Director Cedric Huntley was happy that the Institute was able to provide the space for these events so folks who are sometimes facing decades to payoff court fees are given much needed assistance. Court-imposed restitution was not included in either event.
These events would not be possible without the partners in the RI Re-Entry Collaborative (RRC), made up of the following core organizations:
The Center for Health and Justice Transformation
The Reentry Campus Program
The Nonviolence Institute
These organizations have built relationships with courts and agencies that recognize the problem that court fees and fines present and are working to fix it, including:
The RI Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts
The Public Defender's Office
The Attorney General's Office
There are several bills at the State House this year that would help formerly incarcerated individuals with unrealistic court debt, building on the 2008 legislative success headed by OpenDoors in 2008.
Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Rep. Jason Knight are sponsoring legislation that would lift the burden of court debt from individuals for whom pay off is nearly impossible. The proposed reforms include:
Repealing mandatory court costs for some convictions
Requiring judges to assess an individual's ability to repay before imposing fees
Waive fees based on prison time and amount of restitution imposed
Eliminating remaining debt three years after it is imposed, which would be applied retroactively