April 12, 2017
Boston – State Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) announced his initial support on Wednesday for a bill Governor Charlie Baker is filing that would assist inmates in working off their debt. The legislation aims to help defendants who can’t afford to pay court fees or fines by allowing them to perform community service to cover their debts instead of serving jail time.
The current practice known as “fine time,” jails defendants who fail to pay fines and fees related to the justice system until debts are settled. Governor Baker hopes that his legislation will reduce the number of people incarcerated for simply being unable to pay a fine, while ensuring that penalties are still being repaid.
“In a report released last fall, the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight found that a significant amount of imprisoned individuals owed less than $500 in unsettled fees,” said Senator Ross. “Governor Baker’s bill would directly address the issues with ‘fine time’ as well as pioneer the priorities of criminal justice reform.”
Many Beacon Hill leaders, including Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, have indicated their desire to see more criminal justice reforms instituted.
Ross, who serves as a member of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, expressed confidence that this legislation will be brought before the committee and addressed by next fall.
Defendants in Massachusetts who are unable to pay fees work off their debt at a current rate of $30 a day. The Governor’s bill would triple to rate to $90 to reduce the time needed to satisfy a debt.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.