The Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School seeks a research assistant to provide legal and policy analysis of laws, commentaries, regulations, and secondary sources about the German day fine system. Research will be done under the supervision of Mitali Nagrecha of Harvard Law School. Applicants should be current law students or hold a degree in law and be proficient in German and English.
In recent years, litigators, researchers, and advocates across the United States have exposed the gross injustices resulting from ever-increasing legal financial obligations (or “LFOs”) such as fines, court costs, fees, surcharges, and restitution charged to individuals in the criminal justice system. Central to reform efforts is the notion that an individual’s ability to pay must be taken into account before legal financial obligations are imposed and before an individual is incarcerated or suffers other consequences for failure to pay.
The problem is that there are no successful alternatives in the United States for integrating ability to pay determinations into proceedings where LFOs are imposed. CJPP believes that day fines, the system of imposing financial penalties in criminal cases in Germany, are a model of transformative change that may be a useful model for the United States. Indeed, scholars and advocates in the United States have argued that the day fines system is the most promising alternative model to our current system of imposing and collecting LFOs.
Over the next year, CJPP will conduct a case study of the German day fine system. CJPP will do this research in partnership with the University of Cologne Institute for Criminology. The Germany case study will have two parts. First, we will conduct rigorous legal and policy research to answer the research questions discussed below. It will analyze state statutory frameworks, regulations, and other policy guidelines as well as secondary sources analyzing these laws. Second, we will conduct empirical research through court watching, observation, and interviews to understand how the day fines model is implemented and how the legal and policy frameworks operate in practice. The project will interview stakeholders such as judges, prosecutors, and impacted individuals. We will also interview social workers, academics, and other policymakers. This empirical information will be critical to persuading policymakers that actors in day fines jurisdictions find the system administrable, rational, fair, and responsive.
CJPP seeks a German-speaking research assistant to provide legal and policy research and analysis for this project. Applicants should be current law students or hold a degree in law and be proficient in English and German. An interest in criminal justice, civil rights, or human rights law is a plus.
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