State Assemblymembers from both parties today approved a plan to end unreasonable fees on families of incarcerated children, making the measure one step away from Gov. Brown’s desk.
Senate Bill 190, one of several bills in the #EquityAndJustice package by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell, passed on a 57-to-9 bipartisan vote and now returns to the Senate to concur on technical amendments; the Senate approved SB 190 last May 30 on a 36-4 vote.
Mitchell said the measure is based in part on research by the UC Berkeley Law School. The studies show that poor children and children of color are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system – the fees for which Mitchell said are often charged to families who can least afford them. Furthermore, the research found these fees undermine the reunification goals of our juvenile justice system and can strain family ties and lead to increased recidivism.
“Sadly, too many poor kids and kids of color today are more likely to end up as victims of the juvenile justice system,” Mitchell said. “If one believes that our children will be tomorrow’s leaders then we must look through a child-development lens and provide the appropriate resources and policies to get them there.”
As amended, SB 190 would end the harmful, unlawful and costly assessment and collection of administrative fees against families with youth in the juvenile justice system. The measure coincides with a growing trend where at least eight counties – Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma in the past year – have stopped collecting the fees due to the high societal and family costs and the limited or non-existent revenue collected.
Records show that in most California counties, if a child gets arrested and locked up, his or her parents often get charged for some of the costs of incarceration. These fees can run from $513 to $6,000 for each incarcerated youth. Mitchell added that the way the fees are collected can be unfair and sometimes unlawful.
For example, in Contra Costa County an internal review going back four years found more than 200 cases where the county improperly charged families. Parents were billed even when there was no sustained petition in their childs’ cases. That means the children were found innocent, but the families were still charged.
SB 190 is part of a jointly sponsored #EquityAndJustice package that Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Lara, D-Bell introduced on March 20. Together, the bills seek major justice reforms for juveniles and adults.
Here is a summary of the other bills Mitchell and Lara hope will be approved and sent to Brown before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment on Sept. 15:
- SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This dollar-saving reform measure seeks a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestment by amending the code section that doubles or triples one sentence enhancement for certain low level, nonviolent drug offenses. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
- SB 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
This bill would seal arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
- SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
This measure would bring California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
- SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
This proposal would require those under the age of 18 to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
One bill that’s part of the #EquityAndJustice package was signed by the governor on July 10. SB 355 puts an end to innocent defendants being required to reimburse the courts for the cost of appointed counsel by specifying that this requirement may only be imposed in cases where the defendant is ultimately convicted of a crime.
SB 190 has six cosponsors: Anti-Recidvism Coalition; Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice; East Bay Community Law Center; Fathers and Families of San Joaquin; Insight Center for Community Economic; Development; Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights of SF Bay Area; Policy Link; Public Counsel; RYSE Youth Center Richmond; Western Center on Law and Poverty; W. Haywood Burns Institute; Youth Justice Coalition – Los Angeles.