Punished for being poor: how fines and fees unfairly impact people in poverty

Side event, UNCCPCJ 33rd Session

The over-incarceration of the poor is a worldwide crisis. Fines, fees, and other wealth-based penalties effectively punish individuals for their economic status. The imposition of these financial burdens—often without meaningful consideration forone’s ability to pay— exacerbates not only economic but also racial, gender, and other inequalities within criminal justice systems. Although deeply ingrained in our criminal justice systems, the penalization of poverty need not be an intractable problem. By recognizing the disproportionate impact of fines and fees on marginalized communities and implementing targeted reforms, we can work towards more equitable and just criminal justice systems for all. This event will call attention to the disproportionate impact of justice system fines and fees on people experiencing poverty, as well as highlight evolving good practices by States seeking to address this inequality and implement more just forms of accountability.


  • Mr. Christopher Smith, Deputy Director, United States Department of Justice Office of International Affairs
  • Ms Erin McKey, Director and General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice Canada
  • Ms. Myrthi Jayaraman, Legal Advocacy Advisor, The International Legal Foundation
  • Ms. Anika Holterhof, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Focal Point on Access to Legal Aid, UNODC

Moderator: Ms. Leah Conklin, Advocacy & Communications Director, The International Legal Foundation

May 15, 2024
From: 13:00  
to 13:50
(UTC +02:00)
Event Type: Physical, Side Event
Languages: English
Campaign Partners:
The International Legal Foundation
Penal Reform International