The rise of mass incarceration has reshaped economic inequality and poverty and has become a permanent feature of the economic experience for Black and Brown people. The National Employment Law Project estimates that 65 million people in the United States, or approximately one in four adults, have criminal records. Incarceration radically undermines a person’s capacity to find and keep a job and to build wealth. Despite making up such a significant portion of our population, there is still little understanding of the financial status of people who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

  • Shift the national conversation on the racial wealth gap and income inequality to expand the focus on the long-term, economic impacts of incarceration by race and gender. 
  • Identify and dismantle the economic barriers that our nation’s criminal justice system creates for low-income people, and provide solutions for advocates and grassroots organizers to use in their work.
  • Strengthen workforce practices and investments to support fair chance hiring.
  • Work in coalition to eliminate the extractive nature of the criminal justice system through fines and fees, bail reform and other local municipal policies and practice.

Insight works with legal advocates in California to fix the broken and unjust system of traffic fines and fees, one of the key levers of economic exclusion. We fight to ensure that lawmakers understand and balance the real life impacts and perils of fines, fees, and license suspension with institutional need for revenue generation.

Insight is a part of the California Debt Free Justice Collaborative, you can learn more here.


Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area | May 2019

The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as – if not better than – their workplace peers. Economic and employment research conf rm that employees with records have better retention rates, more loyalty, and lower turnover (ACLU/ Trone, 2017). Despite these potential gains for employers and businesses, systemic barriers to employment for the justice impacted persist. Click here to read the Excutive Summary.


Opinion: End criminal justice fees that harm minorities and poor | October 2018

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Theresa Zhen

The Bay Area is known for its progressive values. We view ourselves as committed to ensuring everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is safe, economically secure and able to reach their full potential. Click here to read the full article.


SB10 Will Hurt, Not Help | August 2018

By Jacob Denney, Director of Policy and Research at the Insight Center

This week, California legislators moved forward in passing Senate Bill 10 to eliminate money bail. While eliminating money bail is desperately needed to fix our broken criminal justice system, the bill as it stands now will do nothing to disrupt the legacy of racial and economic injustice that has shaped our state’s criminal justice system. In fact, the bill will likely ensure a continuance of that legacy. That is why we need Governor Brown to veto Senate Bill 10. Click here to read the full article.


Los Angeles County Can Do Better by Its African American and Latinx Populations | June 2018

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Vice President of Programs and Strategies at the Insight Center.

A lot happened on election day this week, including the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors taking a big step towards shared economic prosperity by unanimously passing vital legislation to waive all unpaid debt and eliminate county-level administrative fees that are currently charged to people exiting the criminal justice system. Los Angeles County can and should follow suit to help families who have struggled under the burden of a biased criminal justice system. Click here to read the full article.


Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform | May 2017

Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform is a detailed report highlighting the flaws and inequities of California’s current traffic fine and fee system and offering specific recommendations for reforms that would promote sustainable system funding and the fair administration of justice for all Californians. Authored by Annette Case and Jhumpa Bhattacharya of the Insight Center, the report describes a current system that all too often leads to spiraling debt, license suspension, and unequal justice for the poor and communities of color. Read the report to learn how low-income, Black, and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by California’s fixed fine and fee system, and how we can bring fair, practical, and sustainable reforms to serve all Californians.

Click here to view and download Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform.