A Juvenile Law Center report shows costs, fines, and fees in the juvenile justice system harm youth and their families.

Approximately one million youth appear in juvenile court each year. In every state, youth and families face juvenile justice costs, fees, fines, or restitution. Youth who can’t afford to pay for their freedom often face serious consequences, including incarceration, extended probation, or denial of treatment—they are unfairly penalized for being poor and pulled deeper into the justice system. Many families either go into debt trying to pay these costs or must choose between paying for basic necessities, like groceries, and paying court costs and fees. Research shows that costs and fees actually increase recidivism and exacerbate economic and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system.

Consequences of court costs, fines, and fees

unsuccessful discharge from probation

  • Case remained open longer than it otherwise would have

  • Youth put in placement

  • Youth remained in placement longer than otherwise would have

  • Family debt

  • Additional court visits resulting in missed school or work

  • Prevented expungement

  • Civil judgment

  • Formal petition filed (asked only for inability to pay costs of diversion)

  • Other

In each of the following maps, the darkest colors indicates the most extensive use of penalties, and the most extensive consequences on juveniles, their families, and the system.

Juvenile Debtor Prisons 1 Juvenile Debtor Prisons 2

Source: Texas

Complete Report:

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