NASHVILLE, TN — Mayor Briley recently announced that his administration will conduct an in-depth assessment of Metro Nashville’s criminal justice fines and fees structure. The assessment will also include recommendations to reduce financial barriers for residents and become less reliant on revenues from criminal justice fines and fees.
The assessment is made possible by two separate technical assistance engagements recently approved by the Metro Council: PFM Technical Assistance: Reducing Reliance on Criminal Justice Fines & Fees and the National League of Cities: Cities Addressing Fines and Fees Equitably (CAFFE).
The PFM technical assistance will be led by its recently created Center for Justice & Safety Finance (CJSF).
“This is an equity issue. Residents should not be prevented from improving their lives or moving forward because of often inequitable or antiquated fines and fees practices,” said Mayor Briley. “Thanks to PFM and the National League of Cities, we will carefully study our current system and propose any needed changes. I believe Nashville can serve as a national example for how cities can have equitable fines and fees structures that do not unfairly penalize their most marginalized residents.”
“For more and more people unable to pay a criminal fine or fee, the result can be a never-ending cycle of poverty and a revolving door to the criminal justice system. Not only does this create a fragile situation for many Nashville residents and their families, it turns police officers’ focus away from public safety and towards collecting a debt,” said Chief Ronal Serpas, a former police chief in Nashville and New Orleans, who serves as CJSF’s senior advisor.
“It is a false choice to suggest that local government leaders need to pick balanced budgets or a fair and effective criminal justice system,” said PFM managing director and CJSF director David Eichenthal. “The reality is that there are ways to ensure that cities and counties don’t need to pay for government programs and services through a system of fines and fees that may be pennywise and pound foolish. We look forward to working with Mayor Briley and Nashville Metro to develop a plan that will promote fiscal health and justice.”
The Criminal Justice Fines and Fees Steering Committee will provide relevant information and feedback as the administration conducts this work. The Committee will also assist with stakeholder engagement as Metro develops and considers recommendations to become less reliant on criminal justice fines and fees and identifies alternative revenue streams.