Court fines and fees hurt kids

Who We Are, Youth Justice | 01/26/2021

Dontia Dyson

In the 7th grade, I was pulled out of my classroom because of unpaid court costs. The police took me into the hall and searched me. As they did this, the bell rang and everyone saw. For years, my peers would talk about me being taken by the police in the middle of Chinese class.

The embarrassment of that day followed me around for years as I was reminded of it through high school.  –  All due to unjust court fees and fines my family couldn’t afford.

Having experienced court fees as a child, the high amount and what can happen when they go unpaid, I know firsthand that they hurt kids. It negates the purpose of rehabilitating kids, which is what our youth justice system should do. Expensive and unaffordable fines and fees don’t teach kids that they have a future. It takes small, petty crimes and holds kids hostage. It sends a message to kids, especially kids whose families can’t afford it, that the mistakes they made will follow them forever. I never want any of my children to face what I did or have to overcome it.

In the coming weeks, more people like me will share their stories and I hope you listen. I hope you read all the stories and join this movement because something has to change. Please, sign this to join others in our community like me who want to see changes in our youth justice system.

I didn’t know until recently that my mom could have been held in contempt for not paying my fines and fees. That’s not right. Kids make mistakes and our youth justice system should be set up to help kids learn and grow. It shouldn’t be set up to hurt kids and families who are trying to move on and have better futures.

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