Forcing Parents to Pick Up Kids' Jail Costs

The Washington Post has an interesting article about state laws that force parents to pay the cost of jail when their kids get incarcerated. In PA, parents have to pay even if the kid is acquitted.

The lawyer, Steven Kaplan — who according to his city contract is paid up to $316,000 a year in salary and bonuses, more than any city employee, including the mayor — is one agent of a deeply entrenched social policy that took root across the country in the 1970s and ’80s. The guiding principle was simple: States, counties and cities believed that parents were shedding responsibility for their delinquent children and expecting the government to pick up the tab.

If parents shared the financial cost of incarceration, this thinking went, they would be more involved in keeping their children out of trouble.

19 states bill parents, and 28 more have the means to do so by state statute. California is bucking the trend: [More...]

In California — which incarcerates more children than any other state, at a typical cost to parents of $30 a night — activists have succeeded in getting the practice banned in three counties. Two senators have introduced a bill to ban it statewide.

The cost of collection is far more than what the states actually rake in:

A similar pattern emerges in financial data gathered from all 50 states — significant operating budgets for collections officers and mailing out invoices but low amounts of money actually collected from the families.

Colorado does not charge parents:

Anders Jacobson, director of the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections, which does not bill parents, said that any well-functioning juvenile-justice system depends on youths returning home to a stable environment. Thrusting parents into debt, he said, undercuts their ability to keep the lights on and the refrigerator stocked. Such households already are dealing with additional costs from the juvenile’s crime, parents point out, including steep rates for phone calls, gas for long-distance visits, and thousands of dollars in restitution and public-defender fees.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Real journalism -- and the social justice (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Peter G on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 12:59:16 PM EST
    efforts of a law student clinic -- yield victory almost immediately. The City has already announced it has terminated the practice!

    By "the City" I meant Philadelphia (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 02:31:06 PM EST
    I realize the practice described in the article exists in other parts of the U.S. as well.

    Compelling families to pay for ... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 02:28:41 PM EST
    ... the government's incarceration of their own relatives is a third-world practice which is both purposely punitive and willfully demeaning.

    Surely, we're better than that.

    Add in the fact... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by kdog on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 02:35:28 PM EST
    that it costs more trying to collect than what is actually collected...it's not only inhumane, it's fiscally irresponsible.  The only thing worse than being cruel is being cruel and stupid.

    One of these light years, ... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 05:20:28 PM EST
    ... I would hope that corrections policy makers come to understand the difference between just three sets of words:
    • "Punitive" and "rehabilitative;"
    • "Retribution" and "punishment;" and
    • "Vengeance" and "public safety."

    Because once somebody is officially taken into custody, I don't care how tough that person may be, he or she is completely at the mercy of the corrections system.

    Gaining that understanding of differences in terminology is actually key to changing our governance of the corrections system, which can potentially lower our country's rates of incarceration and recidivism.

    How different the legend of Bonnie and Clyde might have been, had 17-year-old wise-ass Clyde Barrow been treated firmly but empathetically by the Texas penal system, rather than simply thrown to the wolves as fresh meat. He was raped repeatedly while incarcerated as a youthful offender, and wound up killing his primary tormentor in self-defense. Having entered prison as a teenaged petty thief, Barrow emerged from prison as a 22-year-old hardcore criminal, and the rest is history.

    80-plus years later, what's changed, really, other than technology? Our prison system is generally still a disgrace. And as I said, we ought to be doing better than that.



    Fyodor Dostoevsky.. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jondee on Fri Mar 03, 2017 at 05:44:43 PM EST
    "The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering it's prisons."