Tony Cárdenas Wants to End Debtor’s Prison for Kids
When youth are arrested and fail to pay administrative fees, they can be incarcerated. These fees impose enormous financial burdens on some of America’s most vulnerable families and generate little to no revenue for the government. In some municipalities, parents are even required to pay the government child support while their children are detained. Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) wants to bring this practice to an end. He introduced the Ending Debtor’s Prison for Kids Act on Friday, which would provide incentives for states to eliminate the practice of imposing and collecting juvenile fines and fees. The measure earmarks funds for rehabilitation services for youth in the justice system to be available to states that eliminate the practice. “If a young person’s working poor parents can’t keep up with the legal charges, their child stays in jail,” Cárdenas said. “So the burden falls on the children—who belong in school, not in prison. We are creating a vicious cycle that fails not only these young people but the entire community as well.” Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded legal guidance, written under the Barack Obama administration, that urged state and local courts to reduce or eliminate juvenile fines and fees. Most states continue to charge youth and parents administrative fees based on a range of system costs, including detention, “free” legal representation, probation supervision, electronic monitoring, and drug testing. Administrative fees can be incredibly hefty: An average probation term in Sacramento County costs families $5,640. Youth and families who do not, or cannot, pay these fees are subject to harsh penalties that, in addition to jail time, may include suspension of driver’s licenses, a bar on sealing records, civil judgments, and extended periods of probation. “I will begin my fight to end this cruel practice and make certain all children have a second chance at a better life,” Cárdenas said. More here.