Living with Conviction is the creation of documentary photographer and attorney, Deborah Espinosa, who believes that the purpose of law is to serve our communities, level the playing field, and sustain a more just society. The only way to know if a law is doing all three of these is to listen to those most impacted.
More of Deborah’s work is available at SameSkyPhoto.com.
“An unjust law itself is a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
In partnership with formerly incarcerated individuals, Living with Conviction: Sentenced to Debt for Life in Washington State leverages multimedia storytelling and legal empowerment strategies to advocate for an end to onerous legal financial obligations (LFOs), which courts impose on defendants at the time of sentencings.
Washington courts impose these LFOs, i.e., fines, fees, costs, and victim restitution on criminal defendants at the time of sentencing, which until recently have accrued interest at a rate of 12%.
Upon release from prison, a person typically has 30 days to make the first payment to the county clerk’s office, often a minimum of $25 per offense. Failure to make one LFO payment can result in either being found in contempt of court or in violation of parole, depending on the county where the person was convicted. Either way, an arrest warrant may issue and the person may be arrested. Upon arrest, the jailed person is not entitled to a public defender because the debt is considered a civil debt.
LFO policy is designed to fund the criminal justice system on the backs of the poor and racial minorities, perpetuating cycles of incarceration and poverty. It represents institutional discrimination and structural racism at their finest.
"It’s an act of love and an act of faith to allow yourself to feel the pain of another."
~ Isabel Wilkerson
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