Legislators Call for End of Juvenile ‘Debtor’s Prisons’

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(Tinnakorn jourrang, Shutterstock.com).

A Congressman from California has proposed a bill that would end the practice of collecting fines and fees from families whose children are in detention centers.

Democratic Representative Tony Cárdenas introduced the Ending Debtor’s Prison for Kids Act on Friday, April 12, which will end the practice of billing families for administrative fees incurred by children who are involved in the juvenile justice system.

“Right now, across this country, young people are being held in detention centers not for crimes they committed at home or in school, but because they can’t afford the legal fees of our justice system,” Cárdenas said in a statement.

A 2016 report from the Juvenile Law Center (JLC) about debtor’s prison for kids found that one million youth who appear in juvenile court each year have to pay juvenile justice fees, costs, fines, or restitution. Those minors who cannot afford to…

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One comment

  • notbarbie

    Follow a citizens’ initiative that took a lot of money out of the State’s general fund, Washington’s legislature passed laws that shifted the cost of criminal prosecution onto defendants. The citizenry generally love the idea, thinking that people who commit crimes should be the ones that pay for the system. The problem, of course, is that they’re often the people who can least afford it. If their crimes are driven by untreated addiction & mental health issues, we’re saddling them with debt that’ll haunt them long after they’re sober & healthy.

    The conversation we need to be having is that if we want a robust criminal justice system, we should expect to pay for it. If the system deters criminal activity, then we benefit. If it catches people who’ve harmed another & the court orders restitution, the system benefits us. If the system makes us safer, why wouldn’t we pay for it — just as we pay for fire departments.

    Instead, we have a system that preys upon the poor, detains them in an effort to force them to plead guilty, then saddles them with the costs of their own – and others’ – prosecution. I cannot think of a crueler way to mete out “justice.”

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