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L.A. County Wipes Out Almost $90 Million in Debt for Juvenile Detention Fees

by Dale Chappell

It has been illegal for Los Angeles County to charge juveniles and their families the cost of their incarceration since 2009. But, until recently, the county kept trying to collect nearly $90 million from 52,000 accounts that still owed the $24.00 per day charge for time spent in the juvenile detention center prior to 2009. 

In October, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved an end to this practice, erasing that debt owed by the juveniles. 

“Collecting fees for juvenile detention undermines youth rehabilitation and public safety,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said in support of ending the collection of the debt. “It also unnecessarily increases the financial insecurity of vulnerable families.” 

Research has linked juvenile detention fees with increased recidivism, the Los Angeles Times has reported. The Vera Institute of Justice said that the families impacted by the fees are often poor and black. 

Since 2009, the county had annually collected just $120,000 of the $90 million owed. “The amount of money we are actually collecting on these old debts isn’t enough to even cover the resources we spend following up with these families,” Janice Hahn, another board supervisor, said. “It is time to end this practice once and for all.” 

Ending the collection effort will at least save the county the expense of trying to collect the debt, Eli Hager, a writer for The Marshall Project, said. “Forgiving this large of a sum of money could send an important signal to other counties and states,” he said, noting that at least 28 other states still enforce collecting cost-of-incarceration fees from the families of juveniles. 



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