Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and other groups told the board that the fees should be eliminated because they create a long-term financial burden for low-income people who already served time for their crimes but then have problems turning their lives around.
Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Brandon Greene and Noe Gudiño discuss the impacts of administrative criminal justice fees and fines on formerly incarcerated individuals as they try to move on with their lives after serving time.
Furthermore, collection agencies are not bound by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects consumers from various forms of threat and harassment, because court debts are considered “involuntary.” As a result of this loophole, said Miguel Soto, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center, “We’ve had clients tell us that the [debt collector] they’re dealing with is threatening them with violence, imprisonment, or, in some occasions, deportation.”
The clinic is run by the Center’s Clean Slate Practice, which focuses on “the decriminalization of poverty,” according to Brandon Greene, one of its lead attorneys. Some of Greene’s colleagues do post-conviction work, helping to seal arrest records, reduce probation, and help people who’ve been denied employment because of criminal backgrounds. But Greene’s clients are facing a particular set of issues: court-ordered debt related to things like traffic violations and parking tickets.
“This system perpetuates a cycle of debt and poverty that disparately affects people of color; people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system in California and this involuntary debt can affect the building of intergenerational wealth.” Theresa Zhen, Staff Attorney, East Bay Community Law Center.
States have trapped millions of Americans in crippling debt by taking away their driver’s licenses. Can the damage be undone?[…]“As the amount of uncollected court debt increases and more driver’s licenses are suspended, everybody loses. The state Legislature loses, the counties lose, employers lose, our clients lose the most,” Theresa Zhen, who works at the East Bay Community Law Center in Oakland, California, told me before the state’s bill passed.
SB 298, by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), would automatically exempt up to $2,250 per debtor from bank levies — that’s when a judge gives a creditor approval to seize money from an account. More than 100,000 bank levies are served every year statewide, according to research by the East Bay Community Law Center.
Through this lawsuit I hope to bring the Lacayos to justice for their exploitation of immigrants in San Francisco and to prevent any other immigrants from becoming victims of their fraudulent operation. I want to thank the International Institute of the Bay Area, La Raza Centro Legal, East Bay Community Law Center, Dolores Street Community Services, Immigration Legal Resource Center, the State Bar of California, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review for helping us prepare our legal case.
Some defendants will even pay a wrongfully assigned debt off because the amount of the debt is less than the money it would cost to fight the matter in court. Sharon Djemal, director of the Consumer Justice Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center – which is assisting Christy in her case – tells Consumerist that the Center sees at least one person each week dealing with these same unfair debt collection scenarios.
The Great Recession devastated the financial health of families across California, especially the working poor families of Fresno and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley. Millions of Californians are still struggling with unemployment or underemployment, living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to make ends meet.