A new report reveals Florida’s 31 different court fees, costs and surcharges imposed on youth involved in the state’s juvenile justice system and their families are not only ineffective, costly to administer, and difficult to collect, but also trap thousands in inescapable debt and poverty, reports the the Fines and Fees Justice Center.
Fees also increase the likelihood that youth will face extended or repeated involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, with young people who owe court debt experiencing higher recidivism rates, longer probation periods, and an inability to expunge records, obtain driver’s licenses, or participate in job corps programs.
Youth in both the child welfare and delinquency systems are also particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of fees because they do not have financial support from their families or from the Department of Children and Families and are therefore at greater risk of being pulled into the justice system and acquiring fee debt.
In addition, in 2019, only 11 percent of the $5.1 million that Florida assessed against youth was collected, with Black youth and their families carrying a disproportionate amount of the costs and fees imposed by the juvenile system, which are often imposed regardless of the young person’s guilt or innocence.
From 2019 to 2020, Black youth comprised 21 percent of the population in Florida under 18, but accounted for 50.9 percent of youth arrests and it is the arrests that determine which Floridians will be saddled with fee debt.
Additional Reading: John Jay Media Fellowship Program: The Hidden Fines & Fees that Create 21st-Century Debtors’ Prisons in America.