My colleague Kate Weisburd has written an important piece for Huffington Post about a little-known aspect of our juvenile justice system, namely the crippling fees and costs that are imposed on kids who have otherwise paid their debt to society through incarceration, electric monitoring, drug testing, and probation. She reports:
In Alameda County — arguably one of most liberal counties in the country — the juvenile court fees are steep. Families are billed $15 for each day that their children are on electronic monitoring, $25.29 for each night in juvenile hall, $28.68 for court-ordered drug tests, and $90 for each month that their children are on probation, among other fees. The tab adds up quickly. If a family does not pay, the debt is forwarded to the Tax Franchise Board and the parents’ wages are garnished. To make matters worse, youth are charged a non-refundable fee of $150 to apply for record sealing, without any guarantee that the record will be sealed.
Kate and her law students working in the Youth Defender Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center advocate every day for children in the juvenile justice system. Their clients are not beyond redemption. They need support to turn their lives around, and the system as it currently exists is setting them up for failure, which does nobody any good. Kudos to Kate for shining a spotlight on this issue, and for noting that specific solutions are feasible.