Financial Health and Criminal Justice: The Impacts of Involvement
Across each phase of involvement with the criminal justice system, individuals and their families often experience negative financial health outcomes. To learn more about these impacts, the Financial Health Network conducted a survey of more than 550 individuals who had been or are involved in the U.S. criminal justice system. The research reveals that justice system involvement requires individuals and their families to navigate many complex financial demands from pretrial to post-release, which can compromise their current and future financial health.

Arjun Kaushal, Senior Associate
Tanya Ladha, Senior Director
David Silberman, Senior Advisor

Top Takeaways

Pretrial detention creates an unplanned disruption for individuals and families that often comes with a sense of urgency to secure release by posting bail

During incarceration, financial challenges continue to build, with more than a third of respondents experiencing a negative impact on household finances

Upon re-entry, individuals often struggle to re-establish financial stability in the face of financial obligations from their time in the criminal justice system and limited access to key financial resources

Fines and fees levied throughout the process can put pressure on individuals and their household budgets, which are already operating with little slack

Data Spotlight

For those who posted bail during pre-trial proceedings, more than two-thirds (68%) elected to use a bail bondsperson. A bail bondsperson, or company, posts bail on behalf of the defendant for an upfront fee that is typically a percentage of the bail. In this sample, fees for this service ranged from 10 – 20% of the bail amount. The higher the bail amount, the more likely it was that a bail bondsperson was used.

Our Supporters

The Financial Health Network partnered with the University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research to field this study to its “Understanding America Study” (UAS), a nationally representative internet-based panel. The survey data used in this report was collected from a subset of participants (n = 573) that had reported in a prior survey that they or a family member had been involved with the criminal justice system.