By Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Theresa Zhen | The Mercury News
The Bay Area is known for its progressive values. We view ourselves as committed to ensuring everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is safe, economically secure and able to reach their full potential.
In line with these values, San Francisco recently took a groundbreaking step forward by eliminating administrative criminal justice fees that are largely uncollectable and cause undue harm to communities of color and low-income communities.
It’s time for Alameda County to step up and do the same.
Charged to people who have already paid their debt to society, criminal justice administrative fees serve no formal punitive function and are often assigned to people who simply cannot afford to pay them.
In Alameda County, there is an outstanding debt of over $21 million owed by more than 35,000 individuals. The fees range from charging $450 to people who used a public defender for motions, trials or other evidentiary proceedings for a misdemeanor case, to fees for probation supervision, for example, which are $90 a month, or $6,100 for the average probationer per case.
Such crippling fees force families who are already financially stressed to make untenable choices between paying court-ordered fees or covering basic expenses, like feeding their children. They therefore often end up with insurmountable, uncollectible debt.
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