Juvenile justice costs lots of money for defendants and their families in Alameda County, Ca., and elsewhere, reports Youth Radio. The bill starts adding up as soon as you’re arrested, before anyone reaches the courtroom. Even if you're innocent, in Alameda County, the investigation alone will cost you $250. “You get fined for the public defender,” said Debra Mendoza, probation officer-turned-advocate. “You get charged for incarceration. There's a fee for being in juvenile hall. There's a daily fee if you're on GPS.” Add the fees together for a juvenile who's been incarcerated for an average amount of time in this county, and the total bill will be close to $2,000.
It's parents who are responsible for the bill. And that's the trend across states. “There are more and more criminal justice fees that are added every year in this country,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “In recent years, about 20 state legislatures passed laws holding parents responsible for their children's crimes.” In California, parents have the right to negotiate fees, but it's not easy. If they don't pay, officials can garnish parents' wages, take their tax refunds or place liens against property. In Alameda County, one of the poorest counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, half of the fees charged to parents remain unpaid.