Juvenile Justice Fines & Fees
The juvenile justice system imposes numerous fines and fees on youth and their families. These fines and fees are widespread across the country; nearly every state imposes costs on children. These costs heighten instability for families already in financial distress.
In 2016-2017, Juveniles for Justice focused on raising awareness about the impact of juvenile justice costs on youth and families, and creating more rehabilitative alternatives. Our youth advocates wrote a poem, The Cost of Our Struggle, to highlight the stress that fines and fees have imposed on them and their families. Two members of J4J read the poem as part of testimony during a City Council hearing on costs, fines, and fees in Philadelphia. During the hearing, Philadelphia Department of Human Services announced they would no longer charge youth or parents for the cost of being in a juvenile justice facility or placement. Prior to then, families were being invoiced for the cost of their children's incarceration.
In addition to The Cost of Our Struggle, Juveniles for Justice created a board game as an educational tool to illustrate the impact of fines and fees on youth. Youth advocates also developed a list of recommended alternatives to charging fines and fees, including alternatives to incarceration if youth cannot pay the fees.
In 2017 J4J presented their recommendations to Family Court Judges to encourage officials and judges to pursue alternatives for youth who are arrested. Youth advocates also gave a presentation on their project at the 2017 National Juvenile Justice Network Forum in Washington, D.C.
The Cost of Our Struggle
Do you see the struggle and oppression? --
Due to the money, you stressin?
See, I’m lost but not the lost you thinkin’--
I’m lost because of too much information -- about my situation, not sure if the people are willin’ to listen
See, many states establish that youth can be incarcerated or otherwise face a loss of liberty when you fail to pay --
Ain’t it funny how people can remove your freedom in just a day
There’s so much drive moving me forward, -- but, met with a fine I can’t pay, --
They can straight up take my license away
It’s pay this restitution, take away my freedoms, or go to jail
Shoot, it feels like I’m already in hell
They say it’s fair and just for us to pay a fine, --
But if we can’t pay, what’s fair about going away for months at a time?
How am I to learn from this act of makin’ me financially deflated? --
Is this how I am supposed to be rehabilitated?
I’m just a kid with no 9 to 5 --
Still tryin to help my mamma with rent and food to stay alive
See these laws are stuck on me like a tattoo
On the road to jail -- no way off or nothing to do
People deciding if we’re wrong or right,
But shouldn’t our case be worth a fight?
Youth forced into adulthood at such a young age,
But we’re determined to have a new outcome, -- determined to change
It’s not that nobody’s not tryin’ to make it right,--
We’re tryin’ to provide you with a little insight.
See our hearts are already full with stones that can’t be destroyed,
Overwhelmed by anger turnin’ life into something paranoid
See We Are Youth trying to gain knowledge and survive.
We’re just asking you-- don’t let these fees cost us our lives.