The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to write off nearly $90 million in fees imposed on thousands of families with children in the juvenile justice system — the largest such write-off in history.
The move came after Senate Bill 190, signed into law in October 2017, prohibited collection of such fees as of Jan. 1 this year.
“There is compelling evidence that the administrative fees related to detention undermine youth rehabilitation and public safety, increase the financial insecurity of vulnerable families, and are correlated to higher recidivism rates,” according to the motion approved by the board.
More than 52,000 accounts will be discharged under the motion, which was written by state Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.
A 2017 study by the UC Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic, Making Families Pay, found that juvenile fees generate little revenue after collection costs, since most families with children in the system cannot afford to pay them, and the system has a de facto racially discriminatory effect, as children of color are arrested and punished disproportionately.
Advocacy groups, including the Policy Advocacy Clinic at US-Berkeley School of Law, the Youth Justice Coalition of Los Angeles and the Western Center on Law & Poverty, called on other California counties to follow Los Angeles’ lead and write of the nearly $144 million they are still trying to collect. San Diego County has $63 million in uncollected accounts on its books; Orange County has $38 million, and Riverside County $15 million.
Los Angeles County officials must notify parents and guardians of the fee relief and report quarterly to the Board until fee discharges are complete.