By Holly Mitchell and Jhumpa Bhattacharya | East Bay Times

The way our criminal justice system operates is changing. Community members, policy advocates and a growing number of judges recognize that criminal fines and fees are unjust and harm low-income people and communities of color.

California is poised to follow the lead of Alameda County and San Francisco in addressing this issue by passing SB 144, the Families Over Fees Act. The bill would eliminate county-imposed and other criminal administrative fees throughout California, and discharge all related debt.

The bill is co-sponsored by a coalition of organizations, including ACLU Southern and Northern California, A New Way of Life, The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center, Homeboy Industries, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and PolicyLink.

Despite its progressive reputation, California imposes financial burdens and barriers — including administrative fees, surcharges, and penalty assessments — on people who have gone through the legal system and are striving to move forward with their lives. These additional impositions are extraordinarily burdensome and undermine the economic security of low-income families and families of color who simply cannot afford to pay them.

Click here to read the full opinion piece.