Deborah Espinosa

Deborah Espinosa is a legally trained photographer, who uses multimedia to advocate for the rights of the poor and marginalized. She…

Debt for Life

About Living With Conviction: Sentenced to Debt for Life in Washington State

“Living with Conviction is a multimedia and civic engagement project about how the State of Washington sentences people not just to prison but to a lifetime of debt. On the day of sentencing, courts impose on defendants costs, fines, fees, and victim restitution (aka “legal financial obligations” (LFOs)), which accrue interest at a rate of 12%. This means that by the time a person gets out of prison, the total amount has increased substantially. The first monthly LFO payment is due within 30 days of release. Failure to pay even once can result in arrest. And yet for individuals re-entering their communities following incarceration, such debt is physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially crippling.

The intended impact of Living with Conviction is three-fold: to (1) raise awareness among Washington residents about LFO policy and its impacts; (2) eliminate barriers between those living with conviction and those not; and (3) amplify the voices of and empower formerly incarcerated individuals who are struggling with LFO debt. As one participant explained, sharing one’s story for Living with Conviction “gives purpose to our pain.””