U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Profitable Penalties for Lower Level Courts

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 5 Dated: (February-March 1990) Pages: 248-252
Date Published
5 pages
This 1984 study of the Los Angeles County municipal courts found that probation plus a fine is the most effective punishment for reducing recidivism and the least costly to the county.
To tabulate figures on financial and other penalties, as well as on their correlates, this study obtained information from the files of 1,121 persons sentenced by the Los Angeles County municipal courts. The sample was limited to six offense groups: assault, burglary, drug crimes, driving under the influence, theft, and indecent exposure. All cases selected were those closed in 1984 to permit collection in 1986-87 of criminal records for 2 years after release and to determine their rates of postrelease recidivism and the extent of their payment of fines. The data suggest that lower courts can achieve greater crime reduction by imposing fines on more offenders. Paying an appreciable amount of money for an offense apparently deters further infractions. Fines are more effective when they are commensurate with the offender's ability to pay and when payment is structured according to the offender's income periods. 5 figures, 5 footnotes.

Date Published: January 1, 1990