Ending justice fines against children is a start, more reform needed

Meryem Dede, Bay to Bay News - Delaware State News •
prison behind iron bars

This past October, Delaware took a big first step forward in helping families across our state. Last year, Delaware was named one of the worst actors in the nation for tacking fines and fees onto criminal convictions or delinquency adjudications, ranking 47th out of 51 jurisdictions. No more. On Oct. 3, Gov. John Carney signed House Bill 244, making big changes for justice-impacted people around the state by addressing the harmful effects of these fees and fines.


No person, youth or adult, should face different justice system consequences based on their financial status. HB 244 makes major strides in this direction. It ends all fines and fees for children, who by virtue of their age should not (and, sometimes, even legally cannot) be expected to pay financial burdens. Under our legal system’s prior practice, children could be charged fines and fees as a part of a criminal adjudication. This practice burdens families, drives children deeper into the justice system and exacerbates racial and economic disparities in the juvenile and criminal justice system, as well as in the community.

About the Expert

Meryem is a staff attorney with the Debt Free Justice campaign, working to end fees and fines in the juvenile criminal legal system. Before joining Juvenile Law Center, Meryem was an assistant public defender with the State of Delaware, where she practiced in both misdemeanor and felony trial units. As a public defender, Meryem represented clients on everything from traffic offenses to homicide cases.

Incensed by what she saw as a public defender, prior to joining Juvenile Law Center, Meryem also worked with and still co-leads the Delaware Campaign to End Debtors' Prisons, a community