Legal Financial Obligations

LFOLegal Financial Obligations are the costs incurred by individuals convicted of crimes during the time they are incarcerated. Fees include court costs, fines and other legal assessments. They accrue at a rate of 12 percent and are issued at a critical time when individuals have served their time and are reentering society. LFOs trap families into cycles of poverty and debt, increase the risk of homelessness through ruined credit, and shift the costs of mass incarceration onto communities of color.

Some statistics about LFOs:

  • The average LFO debt in Washington is $2,500. With a 12% interest rate, consistent payments of $20 per month will NEVER pay off the debt.
  • Even when you compare people convicted of the same crime, which have the same criminal history, Latino defendants are sentenced to higher LFOs than anyone else.
  • Incarceration targets poor people. 80-90% of people charged with felonies in Washington are declared indigent by courts at the time of sentencing.
  • More than 114,000 people owe Legal Financial Obligations in the state of Washington.

Are you affected by Legal Financial Obligations or know someone who is? We want to hear from you.

Email: margaret@washingtoncan.org

Up From Debt: March 14, 2015

At Up From Debt dozens of people in Seattle Saturday helped launch a national movement to end predatory lending and find solutions for debt including student loans, medical care, legal fees, credit cards and mortgages.

Participants called on President Obama to create a panel to investigate the debt system, including predatory lending practices that are forcing families into debt. The presidential panel is asked to develop solutions that provide a road out of debt, including debt cancellation.

Participants shared stories of aggressive debt collectors, wage garnishments and financial struggles from all forms of debt. Experts from organizations including ReFund America Project, Columbia Legal Services, Strike Debt and the NAACP outlined the growing realities of debt and marked the disparaging effects on women and people of color.

Six workshops focused on root causes of debt:

  1. Understanding and Solving the Medical Debt Pandemic – This workshop explored the pandemic of medical debt including the evolution of our current healthcare system and the impacts costly healthcare has on families. Participants explored ways to lay the groundwork for real, radical change to our healthcare system.
  2. Unshackling from Prison Debt – Legal Financial Obligations creates a cycle of poverty for low income people in the criminal justice system, with the highest impact in communities of color. Participants learned about current campaigns to address legal financial obligation systems, including eliminating high interest, better assessment, and community service alternatives.
  3. Small Business: How to Beat Predators on Main Street – Predatory lending has been creating havoc among mom-and-pop businesses that are already struggling against big box chains. This failure of the banking system has opened doors to aggressive online lending and predatory loan schemes. Participants heard ways the Main Street Alliance of Washington is connecting small businesses to values-driven lending and sources of capital from places like community banks and crowdfunding coalitions.
  4. The Rising Cost of College and How Debt is Disenfranchising a Generation – For most of our country’s history, education was the key to lifting families out of poverty and creating thriving economies that raise the quality of life for all. However, as the cost of college is rising exponentially and our country’s students owe more than $1.2 trillion in student debt. Participants discussed solutions to stop this crisis from spiraling out of control.
  5. Stopping the Wall Street Wrecking Ball: Organizing Up From Housing Debt – The housing crisis was created by Wall Street, with the result that tens of millions of people lost their homes. Millions more remain deeply in debt. People of color were specifically targeted with predatory sub-prime loans. Workshop participants talked about the root causes of the crisis and explore organizing solutions.
  6. Making the American Dream Real for Everyone – This was an interactive workshop focusing on the rise and fall of organized labor and their allies over the past 100 or more years and the relevance today. The explosive rise of personal and family debt is a direct result of the weakening power of working people. This workshop explored learning what from the past can be applied today?

From this convention, this network of organizations and supporters will mobilize to push for policy change at the state and national level to address medical, student, housing and legal-fee debt.

One Last Day …One Last Workshop

Up From Debt

Registration ends in TODAY for Up From Debt. One last workshop to choose from below at the event this Saturday, March 14 9am – 5pm at SEIU 775NW, 215 Columbia, Seattle. Click here to register.

  1. Making the American Dream Real for Everyone — This is an interactive workshop that documents and illustrates the rise and fall of organized labor and their allies over the past 100+ years and the relevance of this story today. The explosive rise of personal and family debt is a direct result of the weakening power of working people. What can we learn from our past that can help us move forward today?

Two Days Left …Two More Workshops

Up From DebtRegistration ends in two days for Up From Debt. Below are two more workshops to choose from this Saturday, March 14 9am – 5pm at SEIU 775NW, 215 Columbia, Seattle. Click here to register

  1. The Rising Cost of College and How Debt is Disenfranchising a Generation — For most of our country’s history, education was the key to lifting families out of poverty and creating thriving economies that raise the quality of life for all. However, as the cost of college is rising exponentially and our country’s students owe more than $1.2 trillion in student debt. In this workshop participants will ear solutions to stop this crisis from spiraling out of control. Presenter: Chris Genese, Washington CAN!
  2. Stopping the Wall Street Wrecking Ball: Organizing Up From Housing Debt — The housing crisis was created by Wall Street, and the result was the loss of their homes for tens of millions of people. Millions more remain deeply in debt. People of color were specifically targeted with predatory subprime loans. At this workshop we will talk about the root causes of the crisis and explore organizing solutions. Presenters: Betsy Andrews, Washington CAN! leader, Tony Williams, Washington CAN! member, Sheley Seacrest, NAACP

Three Days Left to Register …First Three of Six Workshops

Up From Debt

Registration ends in just three days for Up From Debt, a national convention in Seattle that will be a place to share your debt story, take part in discussions and hear from grassroots leaders as they work to find solutions. Click here to register for Up From Debt, Saturday, March 14 from 9am – 5pm at SEIU 775NW on 215 Columbia in Seattle.

The first three (of six) workshops to choose from this Saturday:

  1. Understanding and Solving the Medical Debt Pandemic — This workshop will explore the pandemic of medical debt including the evolution of our current healthcare system and the impacts costly healthcare has on families. Participants will explore ways to lay the groundwork for real, radical change to our healthcare system. Presenter: Xochitl Maykovich, Washington CAN!
  2. Unshackling from Prison Debt — Legal Financial Obligations create a cycle of poverty for everyone who comes in contact with the criminal justice system, with the highest impact in communities of color. Participants will learn about current campaigns to addresses these barriers created by the legal financial obligations system, including high interest, assessment, community service alternatives, etc. Presenters: Nick Allen, Columbia Legal Services, Gerald Hankerson, Seattle/King County NAACP, Ardell Shaw, Poverty Action Network, Justin Pimsanguan, Washington CAN!
  3. Small Business: How to Beat Predators on Main Street — Predatory lending has been creating havoc among mom-n-pops who are already struggling against big box chains. This failure of the banking system has opened doors to aggressive online lending and predatory loan conditions.. The participants will learn about the ways the Main Street Alliance of Washington is connecting small businesses to values-driven lending and sources of capital from places like community banks and crowdfunding coalitions. Presenter: Chris Genese, Washington CAN!