Poor Not Guilty: Fines & Fees Challenge

Photo from the Poor Not Guilty gameThe Fines & Fees Challenge is an interactive educational tool based on a series of real-life experiences that highlight how fines and fees for petty offenses create impossible situations for those experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. Each scenario asks the player to make a series of choices in response to an inciting circumstance with the goal of escaping the cycle that financial punishment systems trap them in. To varying degrees throughout the U.S., cities and states impose heavy fines for minor offenses at every stage of the criminal justice system. Millions of Americans get trapped in a cycle of punishment simply because they can’t afford to pay these fines and fees. Without any means of escape from a system designed to punish poverty, many Americans lose their jobs, homes, and even their children. Almost every state has laws that punish and fine people experiencing homelessness for engaging in necessary activities, such as sleeping or sitting in public. These types of policies criminalize homelessness and fail to address its root causes, like the lack of access to affordable and adequate housing.

Can you escape the cycle of criminalization?

Teaching Tools

The Poor Not Guilty: Fines & Fees Challenge can be used to sensitize audiences to the difficulties faced by poor and homeless Americans. We have provided a suggested lesson plan, but it can also be set up at a conference table on a tablet for attendees to interact with on their own, or used as part of a webinar or in person presentation, board training, or even in an advocacy visit with an elected or appointed official. Please feel free to use the exercise however you need it, and let us know how it works and if you have any suggestions for improvements!

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