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Inherently Unstable: The History and Future of Reliance on Court-Imposed Fees in the State of Texas  

Author:  Todd Jermstad.

Source: Volume 29, Number 03, Spring 2020 , pp.7-21(15)

Journal of Community Justice (formerly Journal of Community Corrections)

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This article considers whether the continued reliance on the imposition of court-ordered fees to support the operation of local adult probation departments in Texas is sustainable. The article is divided into two parts. The first part examines the history of the assessment of court-ordered fines, fees, and costs on probationers in the State of Texas. This part of the article attempts to address the question, “How did we get here?” with the disturbing notion that probation in Texas was more just, humane, and rational 50 years ago than it is today. The second part of the article examines changes in the economy with a focus on wage growth—and stagnation—within certain demographic groups due to the advancement of technological innovations in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. This second section ends with recommendations for policymakers and adult probation departments to prepare for the radical changes that they will be facing. Finally, the article concludes with an assessment of what the criminal justice system in Texas will be if the status quo remains and the public policy is to continue to rely on offenders to support the criminal justice system.

Keywords: Criminal justice system; probation; court-ordered fees; Texas legislature; wage stagnation

Affiliations:  1: Bell/Lampasas Counties Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Retired).

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