LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to review any legal barriers to ending the collection of fees ordered years ago to cover the cost of juvenile detention.
The county ended the practice of charging families for housing their children in juvenile halls or camps nearly a decade ago, but kept collecting fees that were court-ordered prior to February 2009.
In January, California passed a law ending the assessment of juvenile detention fees state, but also failed to prohibit the collection of previously assessed fees.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said the practice hurts already vulnerable families.
“Collecting fees for our youth in juvenile detention undermines youth rehabilitation and public safety,” she said. “It also unnecessarily increases the financial insecurity of vulnerable families.”
Probation Chief Terri McDonald said the county collects an average of $9,000-$10,000 in fees each month from around 50 families, less than one percent of the total $90 million owed to the county by more than 52,000 families.
“Let’s stop collecting,” McDonald said. “There’s ample research that we’re collecting fees from vulnerable families that can ill afford (it).”
Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the motion, said the fees don’t positively affect recidivism.
“They did little to keep kids from re-offending and they only added strain to already struggling families,” Hahn said. “There is no good reason to burden families with debts they have been unable to pay for nearly a decade. This is the right thing to do, and it is long overdue.”
A report is due back in 90 days, though McDonald, in response to a query by Hahn about whether the county could just simply stop accepting the money, said she would try to expedite the legal review.