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Report Examines Impact of Excessive Court Fees on Youth

Experts say excessive juvenile justice court costs can detour a young person from getting on the right track. (Pixabay)
Experts say excessive juvenile justice court costs can detour a young person from getting on the right track. (Pixabay)
September 12, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – It's not just the consequences of their own actions that young people must face when involved in the juvenile justice system.

New research finds these youth in Michigan and other states can be pulled deeper into the system due to excessive court related costs.

According to the Juvenile Law Center findings, these fees and fines in Michigan include the cost of tests and evaluations, rehabilitation and court operation.

Jessica Feierman, the Center’s associate director, says these are costs many families simply cannot afford, especially those living in poverty.

"We're creating two separate systems of justice,” she maintains. “This is really a glaring example of justice by income.

“We really can do better. We can set a system that's fair to all young people, not just the ones who have access to money."

Feierman says the consequences of these costs can increase recidivism and detour a young person from getting on the right track.

The report recommends that states eliminate costs, fines and fees on youth by establishing more sustainable and effective models for funding court systems.

Feierman says excessive court costs can also put families in highly stressful situations where they face difficult choices.

"Should I pay for my one child's school uniform or my other child's court fees?” she asks. “Is it worth going into debt so that I can pay off these fees?

“That's a strain on a family that's not going to help either the child or the family. We're just deepening the cycle of poverty."

The report also recommends restitution policies that consider rehabilitation while addressing a victim's needs.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI