On January 1, California became the first state to stop incarcerating children who can’t afford to pay court fees and fines. One of the key fees among these was charges for electronic monitoring. A report compiled by the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic and the East Bay Community Law Center, both of which have been active in the Challenging E-Carceration campaign, played a key role in exposing the financial penalties wielded against low income youth, largely youth of color, and their families for electronic monitoring fees. Read about this story in this Newsweek article.
Not only has this been won at a state level, but local action has forced authorities to rescind charges for EM and other court “services”, particularly when levied against youth for whom charges were ultimately dropped. In California’s Contra Costa county a court recent ordered authorities to repay $136,000 in illicit fees levied against youth and their families. This effort as well had the active participation of folks who have been part of Challenging E-Carceration. Reentry Solutions Group, a non-profit headed by Rebecca Brown, mobilized legal and community resources to draw public attention to this injustice. The East Bay Times posted an important piece on this.
In a time of difficult conditions for those fighting for progressive change and transformation in the criminal legal system, these victories carry important lessons that there are still chances to push back against the vagaries of EM and the other ways in the courts continue to punish communities both financially and in their daily lives.