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New York's Ferguson Problem - No Price on Justice 2020 

10-07-2020 11:36 AM

After police in Ferguson, Missouri, killed Michael Brown in 2014, a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation uncovered a pattern of racially discriminatory policing incentivized by the city’s dependence on the criminal legal system to raise money. The Ferguson budget data showed that the city generated around 12.5 percent of revenue through fines and fees in 2010 and 2011. The city budgeted to collect over 23 percent of its revenue through fines and fees in 2015.

Today, in New York, the reliance on fines and fees as a revenue source is equally troubling. A national study found that 34 New York localities are about as reliant, if not more reliant, on fines and fees revenue as Ferguson was during the period investigated. In a dozen New York localities, the share of revenue generated from fines and fees is over 20 percent. Racial disparities across the state mirror many of the DOJ’s findings in Ferguson. Police acting as armed debt collectors risk Black and Brown lives and extract wealth from New York’s poorest communities.

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