Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Richard Braunstein


Fines and fees for legal violations finance American criminal justice systems but often at a severe cost to those incurring fines and fees. While fines and fees are a long-standing feature of the United States criminal justice system, the use of fines and fees recently captured attention of scholars in the wake of questions prompted by recent social, political, and legal developments. The central question is: What, if any, association is there between race, socioeconomic disadvantage, and county fine and fee issuance? The main hypothesis is: Fine and fee issuance of the most populous counties positively and significantly associate with race and socioeconomic disadvantage. To test this hypothesis, census data and multivariate regressions are exploited to examine associations between county fine and fee issuance, race, and socioeconomic disadvantage. Conflict-oriented theory serves to rationalize findings. A conflict theorist would expect areas with comparatively low socioeconomic status and high concentrations of certain minorities to fine relatively heavily. The findings from this study indicate confirmation that counties with a higher percentage of Black residents issue more fines and fees on a per capita basis than counties with a lower percentage of Black residents. Yet, the findings from this study fall short of indicating counties with comparatively low socioeconomic status are more likely to issue fines and fees.

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice | Political Science



Number of Pages



University of South Dakota