Our juvenile system is meant to be rehabilitative

I appreciate Representative McNamara for authoring House Bill 1493. Below is my personal story and reason I believe HB 1493 is a great step in the right direction for our youth justice system.

I would have never imagined the stress of having a child go through the criminal justice system before experiencing it. A few years back, my oldest son Marcus was arrested at the age of 16. He was taken to a juvenile facility after some older boys he was with blamed him for a crime they committed.

From there, my son Marcus was scheduled to attend court on two separate occasions. He also had to write a letter and go to counseling. Last, he was placed on probation. All these things came at a cost. These costs and fees were in my son’s name, despite the fact that he was a minor with no income.

I felt fortunate at the time because we had health insurance, and I had the savvy and resources to seek out a counselor for him to complete his sentencing requirements. We had to do this on our own though and if this situation would have happened just a few years before, it wouldn’t have happened as smoothly. I would have struggled to cover the costs.

Because the prosecutor understood that my son was a good kid, he decided not to put him through court. Even though he didn’t go, I still had to pay the fees for the dates that were previously set. Even though it wasn’t as burdensome for me as it may have been for someone with a lower income, there are people that look like me that may not be able to advocate for their child or navigate the criminal system as well.

As traumatic as the situation was, it could have been worse if I didn’t understand how to navigate our system or didn’t have the money available to pay the cost and fees.

I do not know of a single child with the ability to afford the fees and costs associated with our juvenile justice system. Kids simply don’t have the money to pay. If they are able to afford anything at all, it is because they have been given the money by a parent or another adult. And for families already struggling, the costs of our system can be devastating.

Our juvenile system is meant to be rehabilitative and forcing kids to pay, especially kids who come from families who cannot afford it, makes our system punitive.

As I understand it, parents are currently responsible for reimbursing the state for out-of-home placements and this bill would eliminate that cost for families who cannot afford it. While my son luckily never had to face being placed in a detention center or foster home, I fully support this bill. It would eliminate some of the costs and fees for kids in our system. It is a great step in the right direction.