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In both Greek and Roman mythology, a Hydra guards the entrance to the underworld. For those who don’t remember their mythology, a Hydra is a multi-headed serpent who exhales poisonous fumes. If you get close enough to the Hydra and are able to cut off one of its heads, two grow back in its place. Slaying the Hydra was number two on Hercules’ famous list of Labors. He was successful, but not without a fierce struggle.

As you’ve heard over the last four days, fines and fees are Hydralike. Fines are imposed for almost every minor offense — misdemeanors, infractions, and code violations — and fees are assessed at virtually every step of the criminal legal process. For every fine, fee, or particularly egregious collection practice that is stopped, dozens of others that are equally harmful remain in place. The collateral consequences of fines and fees wreak havoc on the lives of individuals and families. The impact that these policies have on the economic health and stability of communities — particularly communities of color — is truly poisonous. Too often it feels like it will take a Herculean effort to end the regime of monetary sanctions.

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