I believe one of the leading causes of mass incarceration is the continuous cycle of people being unable to pay the penalties and then being put in jail for not paying. In the NPR podcast, called "How Can America Reduce Mass Incarceration?" Judge Victoria Pratt recounts how there were a lot of cases where people were in a downward spiral and suck in the criminal justice system because they were unable to pay the fines. (Fresh Air 2:00). There are other options for these fines, such as community service. However, in many instances, there are mandatory fines that judges cannot touch.
These kinds of penalties disproportionately target people in the lower-middle class and the lower class because there is no option other than to pay the fines. If people in the lower-middle class and the lower pay bracket cannot pay the penalties, they will be sent to jail and add to the prison's population. Unfortunately, this cycle will continue to occur until there are no longer any mandatory fines, which is unlikely to happen since prisons profit off of the prisoners.
Also, there is not just one fine per individual, the courts give each multiple penalties. Pratt claims, "So even on a disorderly persons offense, you would get a fine, maybe, of $100, or no fine, but it's $75 plus that $50 and then $33 court costs. The judge could waive the other fines. But those two they could not waive." (Fresh Air 10:00). This illuminates how even if the judge attempts to help the individual by waiving some of the fines, there are still the mandatory ones which tend to be expensive.
So, no matter what, the judge cannot throw out these, and the individuals are stuck with them because no alternatives are allowed. Therefore, the current system the criminal justice system is using targets minorities, such as the lower class, by enforcing these mandatory fines and incarcerating them if they can not afford them.
So, at what point do we throw away the utilitarian ideals aside and focus on the minority?
To me, I believe the extent to which we should focus on the minority rather than focusing on the greatest good for the most significant number is when individuals are being used as a mere means to the criminal justice's own ends. So, this means that since the criminal justice system is implementing these mandatory fines to target minorities and place them in prison so they can make a profit, which is using these people as a means to their own end. I believe if we got rid of the mandatory fines, fewer minorities would be sent to prison and the mass incarceration rate would drop, as well as many recidivism rates.
Mandatory fines need to have alternatives. Otherwise, the U.S. criminal justice system is going to continue to target specific groups.
The fines directly target minorities, such as people lower class, because they can not afford the fines and end up in jail due to this. It is unjust and immoral to do this to citizens since they are already at a disadvantage and the government is supposed to take care of its people, not make their lives worse,