FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
Arguing that juvenile fees and fines are a regressive and racially discriminatory tax on low-income communities, a collection of civil rights and civil liberties organizations including the ACLU of Kansas, has asked the Kansas Supreme Court to immediately halt such assessments.
“These communities are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, including contracting and dying from the virus at higher rates, and more likely to lose income, experience housing and food insecurity, and lack access to medical care,” the letter reads.
Juvenile fees and fines often result in devastating consequences for families, including wage garnishment, bank account levies, property liens, and tax refund intercepts.
“A $500 bill is a financial emergency for many families — in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it is a potential catastrophe,” the letter said. “Because juvenile fees and fines undermine youth rehabilitation, increase recidivism, and generate little or no net revenue, many states and cities have already begun to end these fines and fee.”
The groups argue that more than 140 organizations across the country and across the political spectrum have called for a national moratorium on juvenile fees and fines in response to the current pandemic.
Oregon, for example, has suspended collections fees, referrals to state revenue departments and private collection agents, new garnishment orders, late fees, and delinquency notices. Indiana has stopped all garnishments of any stimulus payments.
Without this action, vulnerable families will continue to face ongoing financial harm including the inability to pay rent, food, utilities, and other necessities.
The organizations also urge the state’s high court, among other requests, to immediately stop any juvenile warrant enforcement, automatically appoint counsel for youth without requiring an assessment of indigence, and to dismiss all cases where the only remaining matter is outstanding debt.
“The Kansas Supreme Court,” the letter concludes, “needs to act immediately to relieve families from the hardship of juvenile fees and fines, to protect Kansas’ most vulnerable families, and ensure all Kansans can emerge from this crisis more resilient, healthy, and hopeful.”
# # #
About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.