“Court fines and fees criminalize poverty. They have a disparate, inequitable effect on communities of color without improving public safety, and they have for decades.”
Chief Justice Steven González, Washington State Supreme Court
CCYJ & Stand for Children Washington led off the 2023 Legislative Session calling for the full elimination of all monetary sanctions imposed upon youth – and – for victims to receive monetary reparation.
CCYJ, joining our coalition of nearly 20 partner organizations at the Debt Free Youth Justice-WA coalition, as well as people directly impacted, is calling for the elimination of youth Fines, Fees & Restitution, and for victims to receive financial reparations.
No other state in the country has eliminated all youth-imposed monetary sanctions.
SB 5474 (Frame) & HB 1432 (Farivar) furthers the important work of our Legislature in moving from a system that has failed to fulfill its intended rehabilitative purpose – and one that neither benefits victims nor enhances community safety. Our current circumstances with Monetary sanctions; fines fees and restitution – are lose-lose.
Victims lose because they so infrequently collect compensation under our financial restitution scheme, often under the guise they will receive financial reparations – and all too frequently are left without any – when ability to pay determinations demonstrate youth cannot pay these debts. In recent years, the amount of restitution ordered in Washington State has risen and the amount of restitution paid has significantly decreased – to only about 12 percent in a given year.
Our communities also lose from the current system when the cost of collecting is nearing the total amount collected. This is a waste of government resources, especially when considering victims do not benefit. Unfortunately communities continue to lose, as research suggests that simply owing fines, fees, and restitution leads directly to heightened recidivism rates, driving youth to commit further offenses to gain money and pay off this debt. Restitution debt destabilizes youth’s lives and forecloses opportunities for employment and education.