A family with an African-American youth serving average probation conditions is liable for more than twice the juvenile administrative fees ($3,438) as a family with a white youth serving average probation conditions ($1,637).
At the time this report was written, by California law, counties were authorized to recoup the costs of their juvenile justice systems by charging administrative fees to juvenile defendants and their families. This policy report takes a close look at Alameda County’s system of administrative fees. After a fee increase in 2009 and the introduction of 4 new fees, the average total amount charged to each juvenile defendant and their family ballooned from $243 to almost $3000. This report discusses the financial, familial, and societal harms that have been caused by this system of fees which yields little to no revenue for Alameda County. This report contributed to the successful campaign to end juvenile fees in California.
- “…a family with an African-American youth serving average probation conditions is liable for more than twice the juvenile administrative fees ($3,438) as a family with a white youth serving average probation conditions ($1,637).”
- Fiscal Hearing Officers (FHOs), who assess a family’s ability to pay juvenile administrative fees, have complete discretion to determine ability to pay and no formal guidance or training on making such determinations.
- A grandmother who was interviewed contemplated giving up custody to her grandson because of her inability to cover his fees, and a youth who was interviewed thought about running away and becoming homeless to relieve his family of the burden of his fees.
- “The assessment and collection of fees against the families of youth in the juvenile system yields little to no net financial gain”: the average annual net gain from collection of juvenile administrative fees is approximately $150,000, in comparison to $1.5 million in outstanding debt that defendants and their families owe according to 2015 figures.
Alameda County should repeal all administrative fees assessed to juvenile defendants and their families, or declare an immediate and indefinite moratorium on this fee system.