Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Offenders

Fines, fees and restitution mandates are levied on juvenile offenders to varying degrees in every state, a new national survey of these practices has found.

News Story (NATIONAL)

Erik Eckholm
New York Times (NYT)
August 31, 2016

Tags: Court Debt, Fines and Fees, Juvenile Justice

Organizations mentioned/involved: East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) (Berkeley, CA), Juvenile Law Center (PA)


The effects are greatest on the poor and racial minorities, creating a two-tiered system of justice, according to the report, published by the Juvenile Law Center, a legal aid and advocacy group in Philadelphia.

In juvenile systems intended to help wayward youths go straight, the study found, these costs are often counterproductive, drawing young people, especially poor minorities, ever deeper into the maze of criminal courts and straining already-fragile families.

These measures are intended to help recoup public costs, make offenders feel accountable and repay crime victims for losses, but in practice they often do not meet these goals, researchers say. “Asking people to pay what they don’t have doesn’t help anyone,” said Jessica Feierman, an associate director of the law center and the chief author of the report.