Los Angeles suspends practice of collecting juvenile detention fees from parents

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On Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors took a major step in criminal justice reform by voting to stop imposing excessive fees and collecting penalties charged to minority families who were forced to pay for the incarceration of juveniles.

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The practice mandated penalties on families whose children committed crimes. But it was seen as an ineffective way to rehabilitate young people and an unfair practice tethered to already poor families struggling to make ends meet, the LA Times reports.

The county’s Probation Department was ordered to halt collection and cancel nearly $90 million in juvenile detention fees assessed before 2009. The department had previously suspended new fees but continued to collect payments on old debt.

The way juvenile fees are charged and the cost to parents took an overhaul Jan. 1. According to an analysis by the Juvenile Law Center, a public-interest law firm in Philadelphia, parents are normally charged for price of their children being held in juvenile custody while at a detention center.

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“The [state] legislation helps youth and families who haven’t yet experienced fines and fees, but without this kind of move at the county level, children and their families will still be struggling,” said Jessica Feierman, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center.

The fees imposed included $23.63 a day for juvenile halls and $11.94 a day for probation camps. The state would collect the funds by various means which included taking state tax refunds, placing  liens on property and sometimes they would even garnish wages.