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Pay Up! Criminal Justice Debt in Philadelphia

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Published on May 10, 2012

Produced, Directed, Shot, and Edited by Tom Isler (3L), Samuel Saylor (3L), and Yiyang Wu (3L)

This video offers a critical analysis of the effort of the City of Philadelphia to collect over a billion dollars in outstanding criminal court fees, fines, costs and bail forfeitures from an estimated 400,000 people. Failure to pay may result in the seizure of assets, a denial of public benefits, an inability to obtain an expungement or pardon, and even incarceration. The fairness of the program, however, is called into question by its impact on debtors who are poor, unemployed, or underemployed; the nonexistence of prison records pertaining to pre-1991cases; the lack of documentation substantiating some debts; and the common failure of correction authorities to arrange for prisoners to make court appearances which led to bail forfeitures.

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