Alameda County Supervisors End Assessment of Criminal Justice FeesThursday, December 13, 2018
On Tues., Dec. 4 the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to put a permanent stop to the assessment and collection of fees imposed on individuals in the criminal justice system.
Following the lead of San Francisco County’s June 2018 decision and building on more than two years of advocacy on the part of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and Debt Free Justice California coalition partners, Alameda County ceased the assessment and collection of fees for probation supervision, investigation reports, participation in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, and many more fees that extract wealth from low-income communities of color. In past years, the average adult on probation in Alameda County has faced over $6,000 in fees. The new policy, along with the discharge of existing debt, will go into effect on January 4, 2019.
The Board of Supervisors was influenced by a white paper released last month by the EBCLC, which outlined how these fees inflict harm on low-income defendants by perpetuating poverty and creating additional barriers to employment, housing, and reentry. And because people of color are arrested and punished disproportionately, communities of color bear a much heavier burden of the costs.
Said Theresa Zhen, supervising attorney at EBCLC, “I’ve worked with far too many clients whose life savings were wiped out by criminal justice debt. Now, thousands of people in Alameda County can focus on building a sustainable life for their families instead of constantly finding their wages garnished, their bank accounts levied, and their tax returns intercepted. It’s been my honor to partner with impacted people to win this fight, and we applaud the Board of Supervisors for taking this courageous step forward.”