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Court Fines Sigma 2011 Proof

Court Fines Sigma 2011 Proof

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Published by: pwissel3066 on Apr 06, 2011
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Courtesy Stigma andMonetary Sanctions: Towarda Socio-Cultural Theory of Punishment
Alexes Harris,
Heather Evans,
andKatherine Beckett
Recent research suggests that the use of monetary sanctions as a supplementary penalty instate and federal criminal courts is expanding, and that their imposition creates substantialand deleterious legal debt. Little is known, however, about the factors that influence the dis-cretionary imposition of these penalties. This study offers a comprehensive account of therole socio-cultural factors, especially race and ethnicity, have in this institutional sanctioningprocess. We rely on a multilevel statistical analysis of the imposition of monetary sanctionsin Washington State courts to test our theory. The theoretical framework emphasizes the needto treat race and ethnicity as complex cultural categories, the meaning and institutionaleffects of which may vary across time and space. Findings indicate that racialized crimescripts, such as the association of Latinos and drugs, affect defendants whose wrong-doingis stereotype congruent. Moreover, all individuals accused of committing racially and ethni-cally stigmatized offenses in racialized contexts may experience the courtesy stigma thatflows from racialization. We find that race and ethnicity are not just individual attributesbut cultural categories that shape the distribution of stigma and the institutional consequen-ces that flow from it.
stigma, monetary sanctions, punishment
Across the United States, financial penaltiesare now a common, although largely discre-tionary, supplement to confinement sentencesin misdemeanor and felony cases (Harris,Evans, and Beckett 2010). Despite their ubiq-uity and discretionary nature, little is knownabout the factors that influence the impositionof these substantial and consequential penal-ties. Drawing on a multilevel analysis of theassessment of monetary sanctions in Wash-ington State courts, we develop a comprehen-sive account of the role of socio-culturalfactors, especially race and ethnicity, in thisinstitutional sanctioning process.Because monetary sanctions in state and federal courts are a discretionary supplementto traditional criminal justice sanctions,
University of Washington
Corresponding Author:
Alexes Harris, Department of Sociology, Box353340, University of Washington, Seattle, WA98195-3530E-mail: yharris@uw.edu
American Sociological ReviewXX(X) 1–31
American SociologicalAssociation 2011DOI: 10.1177/0003122411400054http://asr.sagepub.com
analysis of their imposition provides theoret-ical insight regarding institutional sanction-ing processes. Our theoretical frameworsuggests that particular behaviors and racialand ethnic characteristics are associated with enhanced punishment because they trig-ger negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger, or resentment) that intensify punitive responses.Yet, as recent scholarship on race and ethnic-ity suggests, these effects are likely contex-tual and interactive. Indeed, because particu-lar crimes and contexts (i.e., places) arethemselves racialized, the degree to whicha defendant’s behavior is stereotype congru-ent may matter more than ethnic or racialbackground alone. Similarly, the courtesystigma that flows from association with a stig-matized minority group or behavior mayextend to white defendants accused of racially stigmatized crimes. Moreover, raceand ethnicity may matter differently indiverse locales. In short, we argue that raceand ethnicity are best understood not just asindividual attributes, but rather as complexcultural categories, the meaning and institu-tional effects of which vary across time and space (see also Omi and Winant 1986).In this article, we employ hierarchical lin-ear modeling techniques to analyze the fac-tors that shape the imposition of monetarypenalties and to test hypotheses derivefrom this theoretical framework. Results con-firm that race and ethnicity matter in varied,complex, and contextually specific ways.The interaction of defendants’ racial and eth-nic identity, the type of offense of which theyare convicted, and the demographic contextin which they are sentenced significantlyinfluence the allocation of penalties. Presum-ably, this is because the activation of racial-ized crime scripts via stereotype congruenceor courtesy stigma triggers negative emotionsthat are associated with punitiveness. Wealso find evidence that ethnicity mattersmore directly than race in Washington State,where the black population is very small and stable in size, but the Latino and immigrantpopulations are growing rapidly.In addition to yielding theoretical insightregarding the role of race and ethnicity insanctioning decisions, monetary sanctionsare also of substantive importance. Manystudies show that the massive U.S. penalapparatus has become an important compo-nent of the stratification system. Researchershave identified several mechanisms by whichthe growing penal system fuels disadvantageand inequality: the impact of criminal con-viction and incarceration on employmentand earnings (Pager 2003, 2005, 2007;Western 2006; Western and Beckett 1999;Western and Pettit 2005); the effects of con-finement on inmates’ mental and physicalhealth (Haney 2006; Massoglia anSchnittker 2009); and the widespread imposi-tion of collateral or invisible sanctions thattransform punishment from a temporally lim-ited experience to a long-term status (Manzaand Uggen 2006; Uggen, Manza, anThompson 2006). This literature also sug-gests that the adverse effects of criminal con-viction are not limited to the criminally sanc-tioned but extend to the families ancommunities from which they are drawn(Braman 2004; Clear 2007; Clear, Rose,and Ryder 2001; Comfort 2007; Foster and Hagan 2007; Johnson and Raphael 2006;Massoglia 2008; Massoglia and Schnittke2009; McLanahan 2009; Sykes and Piquero2009; Travis 2005; Western 2006; Westernand McLanahan 2000). These studies havemade an enormous contribution to our under-standing of the role of the penal system in thestratification process, but they ignore anadditional mechanism through which thecriminal justice system fuels poverty aninequality, namely, the widespread imposi-tion of monetary sanctions.
Monetary sanctions, sometimes called LegalFinancial Obligations (LFOs), include fees,
American Sociological Review XX(X)
fines, restitution orders, and other financialobligations that courts and other criminal jus-tice agencies may impose on persons accused of crimes. Use of monetary sanctions in thecriminal process is not new. In many Euro-pean countries, restitution was the primarycriminal penalty for centuries (Mullaney1988). In the United States and its colonialterritories, monetary sanctions became com-mon with the arrival of European settlers(Merry 2000; Miethe and Lu 2005). In theNorthern states, monetary penalties wereused mainly in minor criminal cases; seriouscrimes warranted physical punishments suchas flogging (Miethe and Lu 2005). In somecases, fines were coupled with corporal pen-alties; individuals who could not afford topay their fines were subjected to additionalphysical penalties or penal servitude (Mietheand Lu 2005). Monetary sanctions were alsocommon in the southern states, where their imposition was the foundation of the convictlease system that lasted from emancipationthrough the 1940s (Adamson 1983; Black-mon 2008; Oshinsky 1996; Perkinson 2008).In recent decades, policymakers at thefederal, state, county, and city levels haveauthorized judges to impose a growing num-ber of monetary sanctions on people who areconvicted—and sometimes just accused 
—of crimes (Anderson 2009; Levingston 2008;McLean and Thompson 2007; Rosenthaland Weissman 2007). Some of these newlyauthorized monetary sanctions are manda-tory, but many are not, and most legislaturesdid not create guidelines to structure their imposition.
In Washington State, for exam-ple, only two fees are mandatory: a $500Victim Penalty Assessment and a $100 feeto cover the cost of including a first-timedefendant’s DNA in a statewide banking sys-tem.
Although some fees and fines may beimposed only on certain groups of offenders,judges retain discretion in deciding whether to impose them. For example, some finesmay be assessed only to defendants who goto trial, but judges need not assess the trialfee in all such cases. A host of other fines(some of which are for specific offenses,such as drug offense or domestic violence)and fees (e.g., for the cost of a bench warrant,a court appointed attorney, or a jury trial)may be imposed at the discretion of the sen-tencing judge (Beckett, Harris, and Evans2008). Similarly, in New York State, judgesmay choose to impose 19 statutorily autho-rized fees (Rosenthal and Weissman 2007).The widespread adoption of monetary sanc-tions in U.S. state and federal courts repre-sents a significant enhancement of judicialdiscretionary power.Administration of these sanctions in theUnited States bears little resemblance to theuse of fines in many European countries,for two reasons. First, in many Europeancountries, fines serve as an alternative rather than a supplement to incarceration (Bureauof Justice Assistance 1996; Hillsman anGreene 1992; O’Malley 2009; Tonry 1998;Tonry and Lynch 1996). Second, fines arebased on two ideas in Europe: fines should correspond to the seriousness of the offense,and fines should have a similar impact onpeople with different incomes (Bureau of Justice Assistance 1996; Hillsman anGreene 1992). To achieve these ends, finesare determined by only two factors: offenseseriousness and offenders’ (actual) dailyincome (hence the term ‘day-fine’). Theimposition of day-fines by European judgesis highly constrained and predicated on thecollection of information regardingoffenders’ actual (rather than hypothetical)earnings. By contrast, monetary sanctionsimposed in the United States are highly dis-cretionary and may be shaped by factorsother than offense seriousness; fines arealso supplements to other criminal justicesanctions. Moreover, we are unaware of anystatutory requirement that fee and fineassessment be based on offenders’ earnings.Recent research suggests that U.S. stateand federal courts are increasingly imposingsupplementary monetary sanctions. Indeed,two-thirds (66 percent) of prison inmates sur-veyed in 2004 had been assessed monetary
Harris et al.

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