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In 2014, Youth Radio released Double Charged, an investigative series into the juvenile justice system. We ran a story about the fees billed to parents for their kids’ jail time and probation. One Bay Area mother, Zoe Mathews, whose son owed numerous fees, told us, “By being incarcerated, you’re paying your debt back to society. So then they’re going to charge you an additional per-night stay as if there were some options?” Even after her son died, she still had to pay fees. “The bills are an additional stress to already a very painful situation that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life,” Mathews said.
Last week, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium on the assessment and collection of juvenile fees. Under the new policy, “[N]o youth or his/her family shall be assessed juvenile fees by the County.” Furthermore, “[N]o youth or or his/her family who has been previously assessed juvenile fees shall be required to pay on outstanding amounts.”
We were alerted of the news by stakeholders in the county who have been following the push for reform, including Kate Weisburd, director and supervising attorney at U.C. Berkeley’s Youth Defender Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center. Weisburd has praised the impact of Youth Radio’s investigation:
Double Charged shined a spotlight on a critical problem in the juvenile justice system that until now has received no attention. The Youth Radio series provided a vivid picture of how court fees detrimentally impact the families of court involved youth and push them further into poverty. The stories helped spark a conversation between advocates and policy makers about reforming the imposition of court fees.
The full moratorium with additional details about the suspension of juvenile fees can be found on the Alameda County website. To hear Youth Radio’s complete series on underreported trends in the juvenile justice system, visit Double Charged.