All the writers covering this project came up with an idea to try to make the system work better. Here are some of the solutions they proposed:

Use fees to help offenders: Implement programs to actually assist “criminals.” If the point is to deter crime, then teach people better. The money gained from [these individuals] should be going to programs that inform or correct. –Freddy Hodges

Use fees to help families: Invest money back into youth. If poor children are educated and kept busy with positive things, then the likelihood of incarceration will decrease. The money shouldn’t be cycled into prison but into our future. –Kitaen Jones

Make court fines deferrable: Just like student loans can be waived for a [certain] amount of time, I think court fees and fines should be handled the same way. Licenses should only be suspended for violating traffic laws, not because of someone’s ability to pay. –Tomia Lane

Lower fines: I think that the solution for breaking the never-ending cycle that felons live in, is to lower the fines. The higher the fines, the less likely the felons will be able to pay them off. They get out of jail, and go back in again. All of their money goes to paying off those fines. I believe we should continue with programs that help them get back on their feet and find jobs. One bad mistake lands them in jail. It shouldn’t define them. Their life is tied down to this system. –Lauren Berry

Change fines: [Do] not fine so much for unnecessary things. There does not need to be a fee for starting a payment plan to pay back a fine. Before any fees can be assessed, the income of the defendant needs to be taken into consideration. A driver’s license has nothing to do with owing court fees, so the suspension of licenses should not be due to the inability to pay. –Taylor Means

Scale and adjust fines: Set fees according to the severity of the crime. If a person is charged with possession of marijuana, they should not be charged a fee. –Tondia Bouie

Tie fines to income: Look at a defendant’s individual income before deciding how much a fee should cost. That way, it would make it easier to pay off a fine so they do not have to worry about late fees, etc. [A]lso, if an offense did not have anything to do with driving, a defendant should not be subject to a license suspension. In cities like Memphis, proper transportation is necessary to get to work or anywhere else. If one has their license removed, it makes it even harder for defendants to make the money they need to pay off their debt. –Mandy Hrach

Offer community service: Have debtors perform a certain amount of community service. According to how much money is owed, the individual would complete X-number of hours [adapted] to fit a person’s skill set, so it can feel less like a chore. –Anthony Copeland

Give ex-offenders a way back: My idea of a “Second Chance Program” is that it should allow those who have a criminal record/background to have the chance of it being [expunged] based on their involvement in the program. Specifically, if they were… released and never went back to jail and kept a clean record afterwards for over 5 years, I believe they should qualify for a second chance at life. –Gabrielle Washington

Provide real transition: [S]ome felons should be given another chance. . .depending on the severity of their offense. For example, those who commit a milder felony once should not have to “pay the price” by being banned from landing certain jobs due to their felony label, not be banished from public housing, still be eligible for food stamps, and still be allowed to vote.”  –Rob Dunavant

Strengthen existing resources: Provide more support for the existing programs so that they can expand, as needed, in order to have room to house the ex-offenders and provide them with a fresh start. –Brittney Gaithen

Include all offenders: There need to be better options for those who have minimum problems. Many [facilities] do not take sex offenders. I believe that they can [help] some of the ex-offenders if they have their own housing and rehab centers. –Ashley Deering

Rethink rehabilitation: Make a job placement program a requirement as a part of probation after being released. Also passing a federal law that bans “the box” across the country. –Jerrica James

Provide job training: Build off modern European systems. Norway has one of the world’s most successful prison systems, for multiple reasons. They have one of the lowest incarceration rates, only 20 percent of inmates wind up back in prison, and focus heavily on rehabilitation and an open-minded approach. While the U.S. does have a larger population, it would help fix poverty and the debtor’s prison image if inmates were taught skills and provided methods to get jobs. –Sage Cotten

Provide bus passes to people losing their licenses: The courts should provide bus passes for the individuals who lose their license due to unpaid fines and fees, so they will still be able to have transportation to their jobs. I believe this will assist them in getting legal transportation to work and their paychecks will not be deducted due to not being to make it to work. This method will allow them to continue to make their payments on their fines. –Tierra Perry

Decriminalize marijuana and, for now, use civil fines instead: Years of marijuana prohibition have done nothing but complicate the futures for Americans across the country…. [M]arijuana should be decriminalized and, eventually, legalized. However…that is not likely in the near future. Right now, possession of any amount of marijuana can land a Tennessean in prison for up to a year at minimum with a mandatory fine of $250 to $2,500. A reasonable step would be for legislators to replace criminal penalties for possession with civil fines. –Joshua Cannon


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