Court Fines and Fees Hurt Kansas Children and their Families

When Kansans interact with the criminal justice system, even for minor offenses, they often face substantial fines and fees that impact family finances, social structures, and support, keeping many trapped in the system for years. This is especially true for system-involved youth from low-income families where the financial stress is shared by the whole family. Beyond the economic hardships, unpaid court debt can impact education, employment and housing, and lead to driver’s licenses suspensions or incarceration. This report highlights the hardships faced by youth and their families and provides policy recommendations to hold young people accountable while ensuring an opportunity for a bright future. 

Read the full story here

Key Findings: 

  • 29 fines and fees are authorized for misdemeanors, felonies, and traffic violations under Kansas law.
  • Courts are permitted to increase the fine amount above the proposed statutory amount.
  • Between 2018-2019, 66,905 Kansas children, or 9 percent, had a parent who has been incarcerated.
  • Among households with children, 29 percent had difficulty paying for usual household expenses. 
  • In FY2022, Kansas’ 31 judicial districts conducted 6,585 intake screenings and assessments for youth taken into custody.
  • Black, Latino, and Indigenous youth and young people in poverty are incarcerated or detained at higher rates, often given harsher sentences, and have less access to positive activities and economic resources.


  • Reduce the number of fines and fees that are charged and require courts to assess costs based on ability to pay
  • Prioritize cost-free diversion from courts 
  • End the practice of detention for failure to pay fines and fees and create non-cash bail options for pre-trial release
  • Eliminate costs for applying to seal or expunge juvenile records
  • Fully fund courts and public safety services from general fund budgets
Kansas Action for Children