March 21, 2017: Senate Public Safety Committee approves reduced fees for families of incarcerated youths

March 21, 2017

Measure by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell passes initial policy test

SACRAMENTO – Barely 24 hours after its formal unveiling, a Senate policy committee today approved an increasingly popular plan to help keep young children out of jail and end unreasonable fees on families of incarcerated children.

“Sadly, too many poor kids and kids of color today are more likely to end up as victims of the juvenile justice system,” Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, sponsor of Senate Bill 190, said after the Senate Public Safety Committee approved the measure on a bipartisan 6-1 vote. “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 drafted, 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 four counties – Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa and Santa Clara – 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.   

SB 190 is also based in part on research by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, which shows that poor kids and kids 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.

Records show that in most California counties, if a kid 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 kids’ cases. That means the children were found innocent, but the families were still charged.

Now the county’s probation department is working to locate and refund money to these people. Improper fines come to about $58,000 for the period of internal review.

“Children are not pint-sized adults,” said Mitchell, the daughter of a retired probation officer and warden. “We must stop this cradle-to-grave pipeline.”

SB 190 is part of an eight-bill package that Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is jointly sponsoring with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell. Together, the bills seek major justice reforms for juveniles and adults as part of their Equity and Justice package.

The two Los Angeles-area lawmakers explained the bill package during a press conference Monday at a Sacramento-area grade school. Watch that press conference HERE.

Their other measures are:

SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole

This would bring California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: Also approved by Public Safety today.  

SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
This would require youth under the age of 18 consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: Also approved by Public Safety today.

SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration
This would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Awaiting assignment to a policy-review committee. Status: First hearing on April 4.

Four additional bills address changes long sought by law enforcement and community groups to the adult justice system:

SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This reform measure is a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestment. Status: First hearing on April 18.

SB 355 – No Court Fees for the Innocent
This would provide that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. Status: First hearing March 28.

SB393 – Sealing of arrests
Senate Bill 393 seals arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. SB 393 is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Status: First hearing March 28.

SB 695 – Sex Offender Registry Reform
Creates a tiered system for sex offenders and will assist law enforcement to better assess risk and be more efficient in use of limited resources. SB 695 is supported by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Status: First hearing April 18.

SB 190 has six cosponsors: The East Bay Community Law Center; the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area; PolicyLink; the Western Center on Law and Poverty; the Youth Justice Coalition of Los Angeles; and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

Supporters include: Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alliance for Boys and Men of Color; the California Asset Building Coalition; the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice; California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; Children Now; the Children’s Defense Fund; Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth; Communities United for Restorative Justice; the Contra Costa Public Defender; the Courage Campaign; the Dolores Huerta Foundation; the Drug Policy Alliance; Equality California; the Fair Chance Project; Fathers and Families of San Joaquin; Free Indeed Reentry Project; Further the Work; the Haywood Burns Institute; John Burton Advocates for Youth; Justice Now; Juvenile Court Judges of California; the Juvenile Law Center; Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement; the National Center for Youth Law; the National Employment Law Project; the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center; the Prison Law Office; Public Counsel; the Public Law Center; Root and Rebound; the Ryse Center; the San Francisco Financial Project; Silicon Valley De-Bug; the Southern Poverty Law Center

Youth Alive!; and the Youth Law Center.

SB 190 will next be reviewed by the Senate Human Services Committee. A hearing date has not yet been set.

For more information, visit Sen. Mitchell’s Web site HERE or at the address below.

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years,  she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell

MEDIA CONTACT: Ray Sotero

Communications Director

Sen. Holly Mitchell, Senate District 30

Capitol Building, Room 5080

Sacramento, Calif. 95814

(916) 651-4030 office; 916 717-0513 cell

www.sen.ca.gov/mitchell