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Mon Jun 17, 2019, 09:23 AM

California Is Considering Ending Criminal Court Fees and Wiping Out Billions in Debt

This year, state Sen. Holly Mitchell introduced SB 144—the Families Over Fees Act—which would eliminate many administrative fees and discharge billions in debt, according to estimates from backers of the bill.


Unlike fines, which include traffic tickets, fees are not meant to be punitive. But because they’re charged to a high proportion of low-income people who cannot afford to pay, “they end up being punitive,” Stuhldreher said. “The only job of a fee is to recoup costs.” A recent national report found two-thirds of people on probation make less than $20,000 per year and nearly 40 percent make less than $10,000 per year. A 2015 survey found that mothers pay nearly 50 percent of court costs. A respondent from Oakland said the costs amounted to “everything my mother had in savings,” and it meant she went “back to working paycheck to paycheck.” Greene put it simply: “We know the way that policing happens—you can map race, ethnicity, levels of poverty by it.”



Unlike fines, which include traffic tickets, fees are not meant to be punitive. But because they’re charged to a high proportion of low-income people who cannot afford to pay, “they end up being punitive,” Stuhldreher said. “The only job of a fee is to recoup costs.” A recent national report found two-thirds of people on probation make less than $20,000 per year and nearly 40 percent make less than $10,000 per year. A 2015 survey found that mothers pay nearly 50 percent of court costs. A respondent from Oakland said the costs amounted to “everything my mother had in savings,” and it meant she went “back to working paycheck to paycheck.” Greene put it simply: “We know the way that policing happens—you can map race, ethnicity, levels of poverty by it.”

A little over a year ago, San Francisco eliminated many local court fees and some fines after reviewing the coalition’s analysis. Neighboring Alameda County followed suit after similar lobbying. Both also discharged debt, eliminating more than $70 million across the two counties. SB 144 would do “at the state level what we did in San Francisco,” said Stuhldreher.

There’s precedent at the state level too. In 2018, California eliminated juvenile administrative fees, but it didn’t include debt elimination. Los Angeles County decided to eliminate juvenile debt independently, and thereby wiped out $89 million in debt.
The problem lies in how that revenue is generated. The US Department of Justice’s report after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, showed 40 percent of the city budget’s revenue came from fines and fees, which led to a “focus on generating revenue” in the police department. It brought in money but harmed the city.

San Francisco discovered the same issues. “We were handing people a bill for a few thousand bucks when they got out of jail,” Stuhldreher noted. “It just didn’t make sense. The math didn’t add up. The fees are charged to very low-income people who cannot pay them.”

But there could soon be a solution. PFM launched the Center for Justice and Safety Finance to help forge a national model for reducing revenue from criminal justice fines and fees. The group is working with three counties—Dallas in Texas, Davidson in Tennessee, and Ramsey in Minnesota—to develop plans. Funded by a $1.3 grant from the Arnold Foundation, it’s an explicit test run, said Eichenthal, to create a blueprint for local government to end reliance on the criminal justice system for revenue.

He says many local governments want to make the change but are not sure how to do it. “They’re just sort of frozen in their ability to move forward until they can answer the question of, can you do this in a fiscally responsible way?” he said.


read more at https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/06/california-is-considering-ending-criminal-court-fees-and-wiping-out-billions-in-debt/

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Reply California Is Considering Ending Criminal Court Fees and Wiping Out Billions in Debt (Original post)
pecosbob Jun 2019 OP
displacedtexan Jun 2019 #1
pecosbob Jun 2019 #2
hardluck Jun 2019 #3

Response to pecosbob (Original post)

Mon Jun 17, 2019, 01:10 PM

1. We can afford it. Easily.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a $213.5 billion state government spending plan that boosts spending on homelessness, wildfire prevention and K-12 education.

His proposal announced Thursday is up $4.5 billion from his first budget plan released in January.

It includes a $21.5 billion surplus that is unchanged from January but remains the largest surplus in at least 20 years.

He now hands the proposal to state lawmakers, who must pass a budget by June 15 or lose pay.

The Democratic governor's proposal puts $15 billion toward state reserves and paying down debt, up $1.4 billion from January.

Newsom has added about $150 million in grants to local governments to deal with homelessness, calling the problem "a stain on the state."

He's added $40 million to deal with wildfires and natural disasters.


https://www.kron4.com/news/california/governor-newsom-to-reveal-updated-spending-plan/1992384433

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Response to displacedtexan (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 17, 2019, 01:24 PM

2. Underfunding of local governments has reached a critical stage in many areas

and balancing their budgets on the backs of the poor has always been a road to failure, not to mention a disgrace of national proportion.

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Response to pecosbob (Original post)

Mon Jun 17, 2019, 02:10 PM

3. Good. It's a terrible situation

I used to work pro bono on skid row representing indigent persons on quality of life tickets like jaywalking and littering. Basically, an indigent person would get a $24 jaywalking ticket but with fees that would end up being over $120, which of course they could not pay. It would then go to warrant and allow the person to get picked up by the LAPD if they wanted to. It was/is a way for the city to "clean up" areas and keep the homeless towards skid row. For a time, I had a deal worked out with the city attorney to dismiss hundreds of these warrants/tickets at a time. Alas, about a decade ago, the city reneged on the deal and I had to fight each ticket individually.

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