The Rhode Island Public Defender & Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Proudly Presents

Summit on Fines, Fees & Mandatory Assessments In Criminal Cases

Worth the Cost? Or Impediment to Reentry, Rehabilitation & Recovery?

A Legal, Public Health & Educational Response.


The program is designed for those interested in addressing systemic problems in our state's criminal justice system that impede the successful reentry of offenders into society as productive members. In proposing public policy and other solutions, the program will address difficult questions in novel ways, such as incorporating the latest research into the negative impact of exorbitant, punitive, and mandatory court costs, fees, and assessments in criminal cases, both on public health and on the rehabilitation of offenders post-incarceration. Our keynote speaker, Chris Maselli, former RI State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader, will address the growing problem of real 'debtors prisons', both in Rhode Island and across the United States, only one of several criminal justice reform issues that he feels passionately about and that have occupied his time both during and after his release from prison. Sarah Martino, from the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights; Rahul Vanjani, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University; and Annajane Yolken, MPH, Executive Director, Protect Families First, Co-Chair, Substance Use Policy, Education, and Recovery, will discuss the unique public health and other challenges imposed on those recently released from prison and in recovery, while others will address the issue from personal experience.


Downloads available at or

  • NOTES: STATE BANS ON DEBTORS' PRISONS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEBT (online Harvard Law Review article @ pp. 1024-1045 addressing the constitutionality of incarcerating those unable to pay court costs, fines, and fees)
  • 2019 RIPL Chapters 217 & 236. Legislation passed in 2019 that amends RIGL Sec. 31-11-25 to require that an ability to pay hearing be held before a driver's license may be suspended for non-payment of fines.
  • Steve Ahlquist, A conversation with Attorney General Peter Neronha at the 49th Annual Meeting of Common Cause Rhode Island, Uprise Rhode Island online article (11/12/19)
  • Menendez, et al, The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines: A Fiscal Analysis of Three States and Ten Counties, The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law (11/12/19)
  • Anderson, et al, CAUGHT IN RHODE ISLAND: An investigation into how court fees and fines trap low-income Rhode Islanders in poverty, The College Hill Independent (4/19/19)
  • Costs Bills. Several versions of draft legislation seeking to enhance and strengthen the reforms enacted by the RI General Assembly in 2008.
  • Patel & Philip, CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEBT: A Toolkit for Action, The Brennan Center (2012)
  • Salas & Ciolfi, DRIVEN BY DOLLARS: A State-By-State Analysis of Driver's License Suspension Laws for Failure to Pay Court Debt, Legal Aid & Justice Center (Fall, 2017)
  • Financial Statements. Retrieved from the RI Judiciary website, these 3 forms purport to be the Financial Assessment Instrument (FAI) mandated by the legislature in 2008 to quickly assess and evaluate the ability of defendants in criminal cases to pay courts costs, fines, Page 2 of 3 and fees
  • 2019—H 5196.
    • Legislation seeking to enhance and strengthen the reforms enacted by the RI General Assembly in 2008
    • Notes of the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on 2/6/19
  • Tracy Jan, et al, After prison, more punishment. The Washington Post (9/3/19)
  • Memo Costs Bill. Memo to RIPD attorneys and RIACDL members summarizing the legislation passed by the RI General Assembly in 2008 (7/15/08)
  • MOTIF Magazine, (4/4-18/19). Articles court debt and poverty at pp. 10-11.
  • National Association for Public Defense (NAPD): materials on court costs, fines, and fees
    • Letter to Attorney General Sessions (1/18/18)
  • Rahul Vanjani, MD, On Incarceration and Health: Re-Framing the Discussion, New England Journal of Medicine (6/22/17)
  • Family Life Center(now 'Open Doors')
  • Court Debt and Related Incarceration in Rhode Island from 2005 through 2007 (April 2008)
  • Lizzie Presser, When Medical Debt Collectors Decide Who Gets Arrested, Pro Publica (10/16/19)
  • Rachel Black
    • Written Testimony in support of 2019—H 5196
    • Memo to House Judiciary Committee in support of 2019—H 5196
    • Protecting vs. Policing: Indigent Defendants in Rhode Island's Court Debt Collection Regime. Brown University Senior Thesis (April, 2016)
  • TIMBS v. INDIANA, No. 17–1091, Supreme Court of the United States (US, 2/20/19). Holding that:
    • The 8th Amendments Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the States under the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause.
    • Prohibition embodied in the Excessive Fines Clause carries forward protections found in sources from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights to state constitutions from the colonial era to the present day.
    • Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason
    • Such fines undermine other liberties
    • Lower court's forfeiture order vacated and remanded
  • Anjali Tsui, They Loan You Money. Then They Get A Warrant for Your Arrest, Pro Publica (12/3/19)
  • Letter to Presiding Justice Gibney dated 12/16/19 covering and questioning the legality of a Superior Court Clerk's Office memo dated 7/28/09 prohibiting the waiver of the $100.00 fee necessary for a successful expungement order to enter.
  • Who Pays? Fines, Fees, Bail, and the Cost of Courts, Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 644 (4/25/18). Available at
    This remarkable resource is a comprehensive effort that explores the causes, impact, and potential solutions to the difficult problems posed when user fees are relied upon to help finance our justice system.