Stringer: End court surcharges and fees

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | With Lower Manhattan’s courthouses as his backdrop, Comptroller Scott Stringer called for an end to mandatory court surcharges and fees as the next step on the city’s path toward criminal justice reform.

“We are setting our sights on the new frontier of the decarceration movement,” Stringer said at a press conference at Foley Square on Tues., Sept. 10. The comptroller addressed the media less than a week after the City Council held a public hearing on the replacement of Rikers Island with four borough-based jails.

Comptroller Scott Stringer called on the city to end mandatory court surcharges and fees that, he said, perpetuate a cycle of poverty for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals in New York City. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

That day, Stringer released a report, “Fees, Fines and Fairness: How Monetary Charges Drive Inequity,” which outlines how the formerly incarcerated and their families can be “saddled with outstanding debt,” even before a prison sentence is served.

“They do their time and they end up even more poor than when they went in,” Stringer said of formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.

“It makes zero sense to me that, when we have people sentenced and already paid a fine, who are already serving time, to lay on these surcharges,” he added. “It means basically that they can never come out of poverty, they can never help their families.”

According to the report, in 2017 the formerly incarcerated in New York had to pay $20 million in court fees.

In New York State, mandatory surcharges and fees of up to $375 can be imposed on those convicted of or pleading guilty to a crime, according to the report. The report highlights, though, that the majority of funds gathered in New York City courts are for “non-criminal violations and non-DUI traffic violations.”

Besides calling for an end to mandatory surcharges, the comptroller’s report calls for forgiving outstanding court debt, ending incarceration for unpaid court debt, ending driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and ending parole and probation supervision fees, among other things. In New York, parolees are required to pay $30 a month in administration fees, the report notes.

Although Stringer commended legislators in Albany for bail reforms made this year and the city for eliminating telephone call fees for the incarcerated, he called on lawmakers also to take further action to eliminate money-transfer fees.

2 Responses to Stringer: End court surcharges and fees

  1. I think they should increase the surcharges. Why should I have to pay for someone to supervise a criminal while they’re on probation ? If you don’t commit any crimes then you won’t get hit with fees.

  2. Never shy around a camera or microphone, NYC Comptroller and 2021 Mayoral wanna be Scott Stringer will continue issuing a series of useless audits and reports including those critical of the MTA and various municipal agencies. What he will not tell you is that he travels around town by car with driver and police security detail rather than a bus or subway. Unlike the millions of New Yorkers, he doesn’t own a Metro Card and use public transportation on a daily basis. Do as I say, not as I do is his motto. With term limits, Stringer is just another term limited career politician using the NYC Comptroller’s office perks current position while seeking yet another public office. As a former State Assembly member, Manhattan Borough President and currently NYC Comptroller — he has never worked an honest day in his life.

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