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Spokane Group Plans Event To Lower Debt For Formerly Incarcerated People

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Many of those who are released from prisons and jails find themselves deep in debt. Part of that is due to the court costs levied after a person is convicted. Part of it is due to the interest that accrues on those outstanding court costs, even while a person is serving time.

A Spokane group is planning an event devoted to reducing the debts of formerly incarcerated people.

The group I Did The Time is organizing what it calls its Legal Financial Obligation Reconsideration Day. It hopes to attract as many as a thousand formerly incarcerated people to the Spokane County courthouse on April 17 to try to persuade judges to knock off some of their debt.

“When you’re in re-entry and you’re living with a felony conviction, it’s really hard to get a job. It’s really hard to rebuild your life and get back on your feet," Pavey said.

That message convinced Washington legislators in 2018 to make some reforms to the state’s legal financial obligation system. That included eliminating the 12% interest courts could impose on outstanding debts not related to victim restitution. Pavey says some people enter jail a few thousand in debt and leave with 10 or 20 times more than that. She says it’s hard enough for people released from jail to pay rent and feed their families, maybe even pay child support.

“And then you also have these legal financial obligations that, if you do not pay them, you risk being put in jail," she said. "What it was really doing is sentencing people to even more length of time tied to the court systems and not really letting us move forward with the things that we needed to do in order to be successful in re-entry and not go back to prison.”

Pavey and her colleagues convinced judges to give part of that day to meet with people who have court debts and see what the judges are willing to set aside. More than 500 people so far have committed to attend. People who are interested can go to the I Did The Time Facebook page and sign up.


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