When youth are arrested and processed in the juvenile justice system, many state and local agencies will issue fines and fees as punishment or as cost offsets to pay for probation, detention and incarceration. And the buck stops, literally, with their parents.
For low-income families, the effects can be devastating, leveling debt onto households that are just barely keeping their heads above water. A national campaign has been launched to push back against the practice.
A coalition of prominent youth advocacy groups launched Debt Free Justice, a national campaign to abolish such court-imposed bills. The campaign — led by the The UC Berkeley law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic, Juvenile Law Center and the National Center for Youth Law — aims to build on action taken in California that has wiped away both debt and fees.
California recently became the first state to ban fines and fees in juvenile justice. A study released this fall found the policy shift meant significant savings for the families involved.
The Trump administration rolled back an Obama advisory to states discouraging them from charging fees and fines to incarcerated juveniles. Nearly 200 organizations called on the Biden administration this year to restore the advisory.