Creating a brighter future for us all includes ensuring our juvenile court system is just and fair to all involved parties, and aimed towards healing, youth development, and reducing recidivism.
In Illinois, courts have the right to charge court-involved juveniles and their families a wide range of fees for electronic ankle monitoring, detention, probation supervision, legal representation, and more. Courts can also impose fines for teenage infractions such as staying out past curfew or skipping school. The fees and fines can range from $25 to $800 and quickly add up to thousands of dollars for a single family.
Enforcement of these fees and fines varies across Illinois counties, creating a patchwork of injustice falling particularly hard on low-income youth in some suburban and downstate regions. Moreover, because of targeted policing and over-surveillance of communities of color, these fees and fines disproportionately hurt youth of color and their families in these areas.
Adding to the atrocity is that the costs of collecting the fees and fines often outweigh the revenue they generate. For example, jurisdictions in Louisiana were spending up to $1.15 for each dollar collected, while Oregon spent $866,000 to collect $864,000 in support fees for youth in custody in 2019. In California, more than 70% of all juvenile fee revenue went toward collecting fees from families. Research is revealing that this bureaucratically bloated practice also holds true in Illinois.
Many states across the country – both majority Democratic and majority Republican – have begun to reduce or abolish juvenile court fees and fines. Since 2015, 21 states have done so, and New York State has never assessed them. Thanks to the Debt-Free Justice Campaign, a national effort by conservative, moderate, and progressive organizations is underway to abolish these fees and fines in additional states, including Illinois.
SB 3621 (Peters) would eliminate juvenile court fines and fees for Illinois youth. A companion House bill is forthcoming. These bills in no way dilute the awarding of restitution for victims; those protections remain intact. Stand for Children Illinois is proud to be a part of the Debt-Free Justice Campaign and working with the legislators and advocates who are committed to removing this fiscally irresponsible injustice and creating a brighter future for our youth and us all.