Kate Weisburd and her students in the Youth Defender Clinic at UC Berkeley’s East Bay Community Law Center began representing young people in juvenile court in Alameda County in 2013. Almost immediately they observed that parents and guardians of their clients were being charged fees totaling several thousand dollars per family.
SACRAMENTO—Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 190, a major, bipartisan juvenile justice reform bill that will improve youth rehabilitation and increase public safety. Effective January 1, 2018, SB 190 ends the harmful, unlawful and costly practice of charging administrative fees to families with youth in the juvenile system.
Around the country, juvenile defense lawyers and law students have begun to challenge this billing system, arguing that it is akin to taxing parents for their child’s loss of liberty.[…]In California, grassroots activists teamed up with lawyers at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley to bar the imposition of the fees in several counties.
By Andrew Cohen
A unique collaboration between education advocates at Berkeley Law and local public defenders is providing hope—and stability—for vulnerable youth. Lawyers and students at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), working in its Education Advocacy Clinic and Youth Defender Clinic, are making a meaningful impact at the intersection of education and juvenile justice.
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.
Animated by stories such as Cuevas’s, juvenile defenders at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley teamed up with students at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law to begin gathering county-level data to determine whether the payment requirement, so long ignored, was cost-effective.
In Alameda County, California, which includes Oakland, for instance, the board of supervisors recently unanimously voted to put a moratorium on all fees for probation and incarceration of juvenile offenders. Previously, juveniles were charged “$25.29 for each night in Juvenile Hall, $15.00 per day for electronic ankle monitoring, $90 a month for probation supervision, a $250 probation investigation fee, and a $300 public defender fee,” according to the East Bay Community Law Center.
The East Bay Community Law Center partnered with the law school at UC Berkeley to further investigate the fees. After filing multiple Freedom of Information Act Requests, Weisburd and her team learned how much money was being charged, and how much was actually being collected from young people and their families.
After Dequan was charged with battery at age 13, he and his mother were unable to pay $200 in court and public defender fees, which extended his probation by more than a year.