California lawmakers are fighting fees that trap kids in the juvenile justice system

Friday, March 17, 2017

Kids and their families are drowning in debt.
When kids in California enter the juvenile justice system, their families can end up owing thousands of dollars for court and detention fees, even if they have no ability to pay. While several counties stopped collecting the fees in the past year, a state senate committee is convening next week to consider whether or not all expenses imposed on juveniles and their guardians should be cut statewide.

Under California’s current Government Code, individual counties have authority to charge parents or guardians for the costs of feeding and housing minors in detention, as well as electronic monitors, substance abuse testing, probation, and home supervision. On March 21, the Senate Public Safety Committee is holding a hearing on a bill that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 — and their families — from having to shell out money for involvement in the juvenile justice system. Introduced in January by State Sens. Holly Mitchell (D) and Ricardo Lara (D), the bill would prevent an untold number of people from incurring massive debt in a system that’s intended to be rehabilitative.

“These fees run counter to the overall purpose of a fair juvenile justice system,” Sen. Mitchell told the Chronicle of Social Change. “The primary goal should always be to help juvenile offenders reenter society so they can be productive and successful.”

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