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Living with Conviction

We leverage multimedia storytelling and legal empowerment strategies to advocate for an end to courts' imposition of onerous legal financial obligations at the time of sentencing.

Presence in: United States
Focus: Criminal Justice

Living with Conviction: Sentenced to Debt for Life in Washington State confronts how the State of Washington sentences people to not just prison but to a lifetime of debt. In partnership with formerly incarcerated individuals, we leverage multimedia storytelling and legal empowerment strategies to advocate for an end to onerous court-imposed costs, fees, fines, and victim restitution, aka “legal financial obligations” (LFOs). Until recently, LFOs have been accruing interest at 12%, which 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 and failure to pay even once can result in arrest. And yet for the 7,000 to 8,000 individuals re-entering our communities every year following incarceration, such debt is physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially crushing. Washington State’s LFO policy disproportionately impacts the State’s poor and people of color, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.


People Associated With This Organization

Deborah Espinosa

United States  
Living with Conviction
Joined July 2019
Interests: Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice, Traditional / Customary Justice, Women's Rights
I am the founder of Living with Conviction as well as an an attorney and multimedia storyteller. I joined this network to meet and learn from other like-minded individuals and organizations. For the most part, legal empowerment is a foreign concept in my community, as is the use of multimedia storytelling for legal advocacy. I'm working to change that.

I came to this work in my home country after over 13 years of working in Africa providing pro-poor and gender-responsive technical assistance to governments and NGOs related to securing land rights and access to customary justice. I've designed legal literacy campaigns and curricula, trained paralegals, community members, and traditional authorities, and provided policy and program assistance on land-related matters. I'm most proud of my work in the Mau Forest, Kenya where we helped communities understand their new rights under the new Constitution, leading to the election of women elders to serve alongside men elders resolving land disputes. I produced a short film about the project:
Elders Speak: A New Dawn for Women in Kenya:
Deborah Espinosa is the network champion (main point of contact) for Living with Conviction.

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