In recent years, administrative juvenile court fees have become a source of major financial burden for many Arizona families. These fees are charged to youth at every stage of their involvement in the juvenile justice system and add up quickly. The challenge to keep up with payments is an unreasonable obstacle for lower income Arizonans and strips opportunities from kids. Luckily, a bill is currently making its way through the Arizona state legislature that could change all of this.
What are these fees?
When a kid gets in trouble with the law, Arizona courts charge a variety of fees. Families are expected to pay administrative fees for diversion, legal representation, detention, probation, counseling, medical care, and payment plans. Note: these fees are explicitly separate and distinct from punitive fines and victim restitution, and Stand for Children Arizona (as well as most Arizonans, according to our 2022 survey) support elimination of administrative fees only, while keeping costs associated with fair justice.
A family can expect to pay thousands in court-ordered fees, which is almost a month’s income for a single-parent household earning full-time minimum wage:
HARMING ARIZONA KIDS
Systematically, our justice system hurts Arizonan children of color, and the presence of administrative fees makes it even harder. In Arizona, the most represented demographic of detained youth is Latino/a. Overall, they are more likely to be sentenced to intensive probation, as well. Black youth are nearly 4x as likely to be referred to juvenile court, and Indigenous youth are 2x more likely to be referred to juvenile court, and 2.5x more likely to be sentenced to intensive probation.
These administrative juvenile court fees are a barrier to young people’s success. Proper restitution and rehabilitation is a necessary component of an effective and fair justice system, but these fees are unreasonable and can compound into worse issues as the child grows up. If an affected kid is unable to pay their fees before they turn 18, those fees follow the child as a civil judgement and make it really hard to get an apartment or even a job.
HOW WE CAN ELIMINATE THESE FEES
SB1197 is a bill that seeks to eliminate administrative juvenile court fees. If passed, it will help kids around the state who just want to learn from their mistakes and move on, and it will take immense burden off of the shoulders of many parents and caretakers. If we want a fairer and more effective justice system for our kids, we need to come together and support this bill and inform our communities about this important issue.
The Arizona State Senate MAPS committee will vote on this bill on February 8th:
STEP ONE – Call your legislators (1 senator, 2 representatives) and ask them to support SB1197. Use this to determine your legislative district and then use this to find their phone number.
STEP TWO – Tell your friends! The more people are aware about this issue the greater chance we have to eliminate these fees and bring relief and opportunities to Arizona’s youth.
STEP THREE – Share your story. Often, for bills like this, real stories of people affected by the systemic failure can sway legislators the most. That’s why we are looking to uplift and support Arizonans affected by these burdensome fees. Together, we can make a major impact.