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In-Depth Interview: San Francisco Works to End Criminalization of Poverty

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Based on hard-taught lessons from Ferguson, Missouri, San Francisco has launched a broad-based effort to reduce or eliminate fines and fees for impoverished offenders...

A federal investigation following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, MO, revealed that much of the town’s budget was funded by fines and fees imposed on its impoverished residents.

Now, San Francisco has taken the lead in reducing or eliminating these monetary penalties that have trapped so many people in a cycle of poverty that can lead to imprisonment, more crime, and homelessness.

From jail exit fees to parking and tow charges, to suspension of driver’s licenses and garnishments for missing child support payments, San Francisco has restructured, or even  eliminated, its penalties for low-income offenders.

A homeless person unable to pay a $190 citation for sleeping on the sidewalk formerly faced additional penalties of $300. This was not only a cruel policy but also a highly ineffective one, as collection rates were low and it did not deter the “offensive” behavior.

In this WhoWhatWhy podcast, we talk with Anne Stuhldreher, director of the Financial Justice Project for the City and County of San Francisco.