Juvenile Fee Abolition in California: Lessons and Challenges for the Debt-Free Justice Movement

January 1, 2020
By Jeffrey Selbin, North Carolina Law Review

Juvenile fee abolition in California has the potential to undo a key driver of racial and economic injustice in the legal system. State-imposed debt hurts vulnerable families and undermines rehabilitation and public safety. But the liberatory promise of debt-free justice is contingent only in part on ending systemic wealth extraction from low-income communities of color. In addition to abolishing fees, we will need to replace the current juvenile and criminal legal systems with publicly funded justice models that invest in the very same people who have been so unjustly targeted and disproportionately harmed by mass criminalization. This report reviews the lessons and challenges learned in California’s abolition of fees in the juvenile justice system.