Poverty is North Carolina’s greatest challenge. In one of the most economically vibrant states of the richest nation on earth, poverty is as common as it is ignored. And you'e more likely to be poor if you're a woman, a child, a person of color, a high-school drop-out, unemployed, disabled. Too many are being left out for too many reasons.
The purpose of the N.C. Poverty Research Fund is to explore, document and research the immense challenges of economic hardship in North Carolina. Through generous foundation and private support, the fund hires undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and faculty to probe the causes of and solutions to economic injustice in the Tar Heel state.
Conference: "Criminal Justice Debt: Punishing the Poor in North Carolina"
May 15, 9:30-2:30
Great Hall, NC Central University School of Law
640 Nelson St., Durham
Defendants in criminal cases are caught in a web of fines and
fees imposed at all stages of the criminal justice process. For poor
defendants, these costs are often unpayable. Set up to fail and sanctioned
with additional fees, extended probation, license revocation and--in violation
of constitutional law--jail, individual defendants, and their families and communities, are
driven deeper into crisis, even as they funnel millions of
dollars into state coffers.
Please join us for this important discussion on ways to
reform the criminal justice debt trap. Agenda and registration will be available soon.
Cosponsored by ACLU of North Carolina, Forward Justice, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, North Carolina Central University School of Law, North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Poverty Research Fund, North Carolina Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
Our most recent report on economic distress in North Carolina focuses on Goldsboro, a small city in the eastern part of the state. There, profound issues of isolation along racial and economic lines affect Goldsboro's future prospects. Numerous committed civic leaders have started to come together to try to address these deep and persistent divisions.
Court Fines and Fees Report
In trial courts across North Carolina, poor defendants in criminal and traffic cases are charged fines and fees they can't afford. Unable to come up with the means to pay off this debt, poor defendants face additional penalties, including new fees, extended probation, license revocation and, incredibly, jail time--often for offenses too minor to warrant incarceration in the
Our report, Court Fines and Fees: Criminalizing Poverty in North Carolina, uses defendants' stories, court observations and interviews with advocates, judges and public defenders to explore the ways fines and fees trap poor defendants in a vicious cycle of debt and punishment. We examine how fines and fees raise troubling questions of constitutionality, cast
doubt on the fairness of our courts and infringe on judicial independence. We scrutinize
claims about the necessity and cost efficiency of fines and fees and look at
the factors that drove their rise in the state. We conclude with simple,
straightforward recommendations that can be easily adopted by the courts.
Wilkes County Report
Wilkes County, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is rural, sparsely populated and distinctly Appalachian. Its history of strong self-reliance, deep faith and entrepreneurial energy created proud, tightly-knit communities and good jobs throughout the 20th century. In the past two decades however, Wilkes' economy, heavily reliant on manufacturing and related industries, has been battered by globalization and recessions. Even as the economy begins to recover, Wilkes faces intimidating challenges: low wages, aging homes, many residents with no education beyond high school, troubling rates of substance abuse, and physical and mental health concerns.
In Mountain Poverty and Resilience: Wilkes County, North Carolina, we detail hardship as well as determination and strength. Through data and interviews, the report draws a picture of a county at the crossroads: reckoning with current problems while charting a course into an uncertain future.
More about Wilkes County.
Other reports in our Economic Distress in North Carolina series:
Economic Hardship, Racialized Concentrated Poverty, and the Challenges of Low-Wage Work: Charlotte, North Carolina