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Your story can change a system

It’s one thing to hear the statistics. It’s another to hear the stories. Debt Free Justice is a firm believer in using our collective voices to enact change across the country. While we take pride in breaking down the details behind these fees and fines, we think it’s equally important to shine a light on the individuals who have had to navigate this unjust practice in society. If this is you or a loved one, know that you’ve found a safe space to share your truth. With your experience and our expertise, we can build a community that’s loud enough to shake the room. And we can do so hand-in-hand.
 

The Cost of Juvenile Fees and Fines

Juvenile fees and fines carry way more than financial implications. 

The cost of them is daunting and affects virtually every aspect of one’s future. They place a toll on both children and parents — a toll that goes beyond any dollar amount. Even more so, the burden of having to take on these unnecessary fees and fines can shift a whole family’s dynamic. 

Watch “The Cost of Juvenile Fees & Fines” to learn more about the wrongful history they have within the US justice system and on predominantly Brown and Black youth.

Poster of Nykia Gatson's testimonial

Nykia Gatson

Twenty-year-old Nykia Gatson first entered the Kansas juvenile justice system for stealing when she was just 10 years old. While she was imprisoned, both of her parents passed away, leaving her without a guardian. To cover the costs associated with her detention, Nykia says the state took child support payments out of the social security death benefits she received when her mother died. Since her release, Nykia continues to make payments on her court fines and fees, paying thousands of dollars in restitution while struggling to meet her own needs.

A Future Shouldn't be Fined

So much life is ahead of our youth. They are our next leaders, liaisons, and legends. 

Yet these unfair court debts hold them back at a young age and cause a trauma that simply can’t be erased. When children are stifled with these unnecessary fees and fines, they aren’t given optimal solutions. More times than not, the costs begin to pile up – leaving children hopeless as seen in Tyler, Nykia, Adonijah, Dante, Kristen’s stories. 

Join us at Debt Free Justice in our fight towards lifting this weight off of the next generation’s shoulders. Because, a future should never be fined.

Banner testimonial of Tyler Williams

Tyler Williams served a 6-year sentence in a Kansas juvenile justice facility for a crime he committed when he was 13 years old. After Tyler finished his schooling, he spent his time working in the facility doing laundry and prepping meals for 25-cents an hour. Half of that income and any money sent to him from family members were taken by the state to cover his court fines and fees. Additionally, his parents paid child support to the state. Shortly after his release, Tyler became homeless and found a part-time job making minimum wage. Court officials from the county where he had been arrested started calling to notify him that he would need to pay his debt down at the rate of $80 a week to maintain his freedom. That’s when he started to connect with organizations that advocate for youth offenders, and he found a new path.

Keep Them Feet Moving!

Rising above a justice system that was designed to hold Black & Brown youth back is no easy feat. That’s why Des the Poet encourages young people across the nation to keep moving their feet towards greatness. 

Watch Keep Them Feet Moving! and share it with someone who needs this message today. Because when we all rise together, change can happen. 

Learn how to support Debt Free Justice’s initiatives HERE.

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Kansas Campaign

In partnership with Progeny, Debt Free Justice successfully hosted its first community listening session in Wichita, Kansas. We had close to 40 system-impacted youth and advocates discuss how fees and fines have impacted their lives. Learn more about our Debt Free Justice Campaign in Kansas.

Youth Testimonials

Dante Bristow

"I was just hungry. Towards the end of the month, I know we didn't have anything at home. So I went in the store, and yeah, I tried to steal, and I got caught."

Kristen Powell

“Before I even got my check money was being taken out. And then when I got my check, I had to make a payment.”

Adonijah Metcalf

"My mom couldn’t get nothing basically in her name because of the fines and fees that she failed to pay. She either had to pay the ticket or she had to pay the bills. If she didn't pay one or the other, it was a consequence either way."

Advocate Voices

Marquetta Atkins

"The expectation that we have of young people, of children, is bigger than the expectations than we have on ourselves as adults. How can you make that make sense?"

Desmond Bryant

"I now know my purpose and my calling. Using my words, my voice, and my story has opened doors that I never knew existed."

Julissa Soto

"We paid the criminal justice system, but we did not pay our rent. So, we had to pick and choose: the criminal justice system or becoming homeless."