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Community Development Events

Debt in Texas: The Unintended Consequences of Government Fines and Fees


Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Asset Funders Network

This two-part virtual event series explored how jurisdictions use court debt as a funding source, showed how these fines and fees disproportionately harm low-income communities and people of color, and encouraged collaborative action among grantmakers and other stakeholders to create a more equitable system.

  1. Fines and Fees Overview
    • Thursday, Dec. 2, 10–11:30 a.m.
  2. Punishing Poverty: Driver's License Suspensions
    • Thursday, Dec. 3, 10–11:30 a.m.


Day 1: Fines and Fees Overview

This day provided an overview of fines and fees in Texas, the roles of different public officials in setting and collecting fines and fees, and the impact of unaffordable court debt on low-income Texans. View the recording.

10:00 a.m.

Introduction and welcome
Karen Murrell, Asset Funders Network

10:05 a.m.

Fines and Fees: The Landscape in Texas
Marc Levin, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Brennan Center

10:35 a.m.

The Impact of Fines & Fees on Families
Texas Fair Defense Project Client Spotlight

10:55 a.m.

The Role of the Courts in Fines & Fees
Amanda Woog, Texas Fair Defense Project
Judge Jeremy Brown, Harris County Justice of Peace Courts

11:25 a.m.

Closing: Summary and Preview of Next Session
Emily Perlmeter, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Recommended reading:

Day 2: Punishing Poverty: Driver’s License Suspensions

This day honed in on driver’s license suspensions as a counterintuitive and overly punitive tool for collecting court debt and highlight solutions. View the recording.

10 a.m.

Introduction & Recap
Roy C. Lopez, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

10:05 a.m.

The Impact of Driver’s License Suspensions
Texas Fair Defense Project client video

10:07 a.m.

Driver’s License Suspensions and Work Opportunities
Roy C. Lopez
Christina Melton Crain, Unlocking Doors

10:32 a.m.

Working toward solutions
Texas Fair Defense Project client video

10:35 a.m.

Working toward solutions: Texas Legislature
Chris Harris, Texas Appleseed
State Rep. James White (District 19)

11:05 a.m.

Working toward solutions: the Role of Philanthropy
Don Baylor Jr., Annie E. Casey Foundation
Juliene James, Arnold Ventures

11:25 a.m.

Closing: takeaways and next steps
Annika Little, Asset Funders Network

Recommended reading:

Coming Soon

We hope you will join us in February 2021 for the Debt in Texas conference on medical debt. Stay tuned for details and registration.

This series is made possible in part with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Charles Schwab Bank, Communities Foundation of Texas, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Texas Women’s Foundation. Thank you to contributing partners Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project.


For More Information

Contact Emily Perlmeter with any questions.