Interviewer: RAFAEL KHACHATURIAN. More than seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records dogging them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. They also often find themselves entangled by a web of court-ordered monetary sanctions – fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution payments – that further hamper their ability to reenter society. In her research, sociologist ALEXES HARRIS explores what this system looks like on the ground, drawing from extensive sentencing data, legal documents, observations of court hearings, and interviews with defendants, judges, prosecutors, and other court officials. In her discussion with political theorist Rafael Khachaturian, Harris describes the arbitrary ways in which these sanctions are applied, the reasons they have burgeoned in recent decades, and the impacts they have on the lives of poor people. She urges that Americans reform the system root and branch so that those guilty of crimes have a meaningful path to redemption and restored citizenship.
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