Sept. 6, 2017: Legislature sends bill ending unfair fees on children to governor

September 06, 2017

Bill is part of #EquityAndJustice package by Sens. Lara and Mitchell

SACRAMENTO – Less than one day after the Assembly voted in favor, the Senate today approved and sent to Gov. Brown a plan to end unreasonable fees on families of incarcerated children.   

“For far too long, poor children and children of color are more likely to become victims of the juvenile justice system,” Sen. Holly J. Mitchell said about Senate Bill 190, one of several bills in the #EquityAndJustice package by Mitchell and Sen. Ricardo Lara.

“I am inspired to see Democrats and Republicans vote to eliminate fees that keep the families of incarcerated children in a cycle of poverty,” Lara said. “The California Legislature is on record that equity and justice is one of our most pressing human rights issues, and I hope Gov. Brown will join us in making long-overdue changes to our adult and juvenile justice systems.”

The measure passed on a 33-3 vote in the 40-member Senate; On Tuesday, it passed on a 57-9 vote in the 80-member Assembly. Brown has 30 days to sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature.

SB 190 is based in part on research by the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California Berkeley Law School, which showed that the fees for incarceration are often charged to families who least can 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.

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. In the past year, at least eight counties have stopped collecting the fees due to the high societal and family costs and the limited or non-existent revenue collected.   Those counties are Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma 

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 child’s cases. That means the children were found innocent, but the families were still charged.

“The Western Center on Law and Poverty is proud to be part of Sen. Mitchell’s effort to end these unjust fees,” said Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate for the Center. “We join the coalition in urging Gov. Brown to sign SB 190 as well as the remaining bills in the #EquityAndJustice package.”

SB 190 is part of a jointly sponsored #EquityAndJustice package that Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Lara, D-Bell Gardens, 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 reform measure seeks to put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion by reducing sentence enhancements 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.

Supporters include: A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project; ADVO kids; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alliance for Boys and Men of Color; Berkeley Youth Alternatives; Black Woman Organized for Political Action; California Asset Building Coalition; California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice; California Alliance of Child and Family Services; California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; California CAN; California Women’s Law Center; California Youth Empowerment Network; Californians for Safety and Justice; Californians United for a Responsible Budget; Children Now; Children’s Defense Fund – California; Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, Inc.; Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth; Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice; Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office; Contra Costa County Supervisor John Goya; Courage Campaign; Dolores Huerta Foundation; Drug Policy Alliance; Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Equality California; Fair Chance Project; Free Indeed Reentry Project; Further the Work; Girls Inc. of Alameda County; Homeboy Recycling; John Burton Advocates for Youth; Justice Now; Juvenile Court Judges of California; Juvenile Law Center; Legal Services for Children; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California; Mental Health America of California; Motivating Individual Leadership for Public; Advancement (MILPA) Collective; Multi-Faith Action Coalition; National Center for Youth Law; National Compadres Network; National Employment Law Project; National Juvenile Defender Center; National Juvenile Justice Network; Pacific Juvenile Defender Center; Parents Voices Oakland; Patricia Billings, Advocate; Prison Law Office; Public Law Center; Reentry Solutions Group; Restorative Schools Foundation; Returning Home Foundation; Root and Rebound; San Francisco Financial Justice Project; San Francisco Chief Probation Officer Allen Nance; Senior & Disability Action; Silicon Valley De-Bug; Southern Poverty Law Center; Sunny Hill Services; Youth Alive!; Youth Law Center; and Women’s Foundation of California.

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

Sen. Lara is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/lara

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review 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. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell