To relieve financial burdens of young New Jerseyans involved in the juvenile justice system, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Adam Taliaferro and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson sponsor a bill to eliminate certain monetary costs and penalties imposed on juveniles in the system. The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.
“This bill will help curb the contribution of New Jersey’s juvenile justice system to the cycle of poverty. How do we justify young people being further penalized with fines and fees intended to support the juvenile justice system when many aren’t even old enough to get a job?” asked Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson), Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “Their burdens are often taken on by families who are already struggling to make ends meet, which is a miscarriage of justice with no public safety purpose.”
Under the bill (A-5507), several fines, fees, costs and monetary penalties that can be imposed on juvenile offenders would be eliminated. These include certain testing and laboratory fees, a penalty for false public alarms, a monthly penalty imposed on juvenile sex offenders, and the cost of educational or counseling programs juveniles can be diverted to instead of a detention facility.
“The costs associated with our juvenile justice system are far too great for many children and their families to pay,” said Assemblyman Taliaferro (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem). “ Our youth often have to choose between paying off these debts and paying for necessities which can make staying out of trouble harder due to these excessive financial burdens.”
Any outstanding balances for the fines and fees listed in this measure that have already been imposed on juveniles would be vacated, while any warrants based on a failure to pay these monetary penalties would be deemed null and void.
“Not only do these costs take an emotional toll on the young people already caught up in a complicated situation, but it disproportionately affects minority and low-income families in our state,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “It is time to end these unnecessary costs and penalties.”
The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.