News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

FEATURING ALEXES HARRIS – When the Department of Justice issued its ground-breaking report about injustices at the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, a major revelation was how legal fines and tickets are impacting poor residents. But this is not just a problem relegated to Ferguson. Although “debtor’s prisons” are technically outlawed, we have re-created a patch-work system of fines and fees that disproportionately impact poor people in the US and amount to modern-day debtors’ prisons.

A new book by my guest Alexes Harris likens this contemporary system of court fines and fees to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice when restitution is demanded in the form of something so essential that it would kill the person from whom it is extracted – “A Pound of Flesh.”

Alexes Harris, associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington, author of A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions As Punishment for the Poor.

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