Established in 2021, the Jefferson County Equitable Fines and Fees Project (Project JEFF) is a collaboration between MDRC, the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Alabama’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court, and the Center for Court Innovation. The purpose of this collaborative is to better understand the debt landscape and the impacts of legal financial obligations (LFOs) in Jefferson County, home to the city of Birmingham, Alabama. LFOs are fines, costs, or fees that are assessed in civil and criminal cases.
With early support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and IBM’s AI for Social Good Program, Project JEFF’S preliminary analysis of five years of county-wide data shows that approximately 70 percent of LFO debt goes uncollected and that it falls disproportionately on poor and Black communities in Jefferson County. The current phase of work examines longitudinal, case-level LFO data to support the development and implementation of mitigation strategies related to the current fines and fees practices in Jefferson County.