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News from the Campaign:

After careful consideration and consultation with impacted communities, advocates, and the Debt Free Justice California (DFJC) coalition, Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D – LA) has made the groundbreaking Families Over Fees Act a two-year bill. Senator Mitchell and the Coalition believe this path will give stakeholders an opportunity to map out a more just way to fund our budget, ultimately ensuring the most impactful version of the bill is passed and greater racial
and economic justice comes to California.

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Senate Bill 144, introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell, was amended with text that will end the assessment and collection of administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system. By doing so, it would dramatically reduce the economic hardships caused by court-ordered debt and enhance the economic security of system-involved populations, their families and their communities. SB 144 will usher in an era of criminal justice policy that does not rely on stripping wealth from communities of color and low-income communities. The Debt Free Justice Coalition is sponsoring the legislation.

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On January 8, the California Second District Court of Appeals issued a pioneering decision in the case of Velia Dueñas, holding that the trial court improperly imposed fines and fees against Ms. Dueñas by failing to assess whether or not she could actually afford to pay them. The court recognized that “imposing unpayable fines on indigent defendants is not only unfair, it serves no rational purpose, fails to further the legislative intent, and may be counterproductive.” Debt Free Justice California applauds the court’s decision requiring that a defendant’s ability to pay be proven before a fine or fee is imposed. Read our statement here.


Great LA Times editorial on the need for complete fees abolition in California: “But even (implementing ability-to-pay plans) is merely a stopgap. California’s Legislature in recent years has begun curbing some of the most abusive fines and fees, but what’s missing is a comprehensive look at, and overhaul of, the justice system, with the role of wealth and the impact of poverty in the forefront. Without that, we will not be as removed from Dickens’ era as we would like to believe.” Read more here.


Announcing the Launch of Debt Free Justice California

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Alameda County Ends Assessment of and Discharges $26 Million in Adult Fees

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