September 24, 2020
PRESS CONTACTS: Valerie Ibarra – SF Public Defender’s Office – (628)249-7946 – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org; Treasurer’s Office/Financial Justice Project – (415) 596-6138 – Anne.Stuhldreher@sfgov.org
California Becomes the First State in the Nation to End Collection of Fees in the Criminal Legal System
San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros and Public Defender Mano Raju applaud Governor Newsom’s signing of The Families Over Fees Act AB 1869
SAN FRANCISCO – Treasurer José Cisneros and Public Defender Mano Raju applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s passage of The Families Over Fees Act through signing Assembly Bill 1869, a first-in-the-nation bill to end the harmful and costly collection of 23 administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal legal system. The bill takes statewide reforms first enacted in San Francisco to eliminate “high pain, low gain” fees that pile debt onto people who cannot pay it, drive people deeper into poverty, and create barriers to their successful reentry.
“Charging very poor people fees to cover our government’s administrative costs makes no fiscal sense. These Californians have already paid their debt to society, and by eliminating this debt burden, we are providing vulnerable communities with a real second chance,” said Treasurer José Cisneros, who founded The Financial Justice Project to assess and reform how fines and fees impact San Francisco’s low-income residents and communities of color.
San Francisco’s successful experience as the first city and county to end the burden of administrative fees in the criminal-legal system has galvanized a national movement for fine and fee justice. Last May, San Francisco helped launch Cities and Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, made up of localities committed to enact bold reforms to ensure their fines, fees, and tickets do not place a disproportionate burden on low-income residents and people of color. And this week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently raised more than $16 million to pay the court fines and fees of 32,000 formerly incarcerated Floridians so that they can vote in the November 2020 election.
“Our office has been pushing for the elimination of fees locally and statewide for many years now, because for too long, we have watched our clients and their families struggle with debt that they are unable to pay,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “For justice-involved people who already have the cards stacked against them in so many ways, financial penalties create an even higher barrier to their future success. I am proud of our work that helped make San Francisco the first county in the state to eliminate fees and debts, and am very glad to see California now leading the country in this area. It’s now time for other states to follow suit. When we eliminate fees and debts, we are paving the way to more resilient communities.”
When individuals exit jail or the criminal justice system, they are often charged thousands of dollars in administrative fees that aim to recoup costs for the courts and government. The Policy Advocacy Clinic at Berkeley Law estimates that AB 1869 will relieve Californians of over $16 billion in outstanding criminal fee debt, the vast majority of which is uncollectible since people exiting the criminal justice system cannot afford to pay. Studies have shown that some California counties spend more to collect these fees than they bring in.
In 2018, San Francisco became the first in the country to eliminate local criminal justice fees and lifted $32 million in debt off of 21,000 residents. The ordinance to eliminate fees was authored by London Breed when she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The San Francisco Public Defender and The San Francisco Financial Justice Project worked with a coalition of community groups, Mayor Breed, and other city leaders, including the District Attorney, Adult Probation Chief and the Sheriff, to propel the reforms. Alameda, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles Counties followed in eliminating fees, lifting a formidable financial burden off of people and easing their re-entry.
“San Francisco has committed to get rid of these fees to give people a fighting chance to succeed,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “We should actively help people get their lives back on track after they have paid their debt to society. San Francisco is about removing fees that act as barriers to opportunity, not imposing them. For too long, we have extracted these fees from Black and brown families who are struggling to get by. I strongly urge other states and localities to join our movement for fine and fee justice.”
In 2019, Mayor Breed, The Financial Justice Project, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office became co-sponsors of SB 144, California State Senator Holly Mitchell’s legislation, known as the Families Over Fees Act. The San Francisco leaders joined with the Debt Free Justice California coalition to advance the legislation which was ultimately added to the budget process and reintroduced as AB 1869.
AB 1869 will go into effect on July 1, 2021. The bill is expected to have both immediate and long-term positive effects on the well-being of vulnerable families throughout California. Families will be able to spend more on goods and services, which will stimulate the economy and help stabilize households who have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn of the pandemic. It will also relieve them of the debts that have traditionally hurt their financial futures.
[…] history by doing away with the practice of charging administrative court fees. The city also erased $32 million of outstanding unpaid court fees. Now, California as a whole will no longer charge court fees to low-income […]
Are they giving money back as well because i received a check but it was no where near the amount i paid
so if you paid for work project will you get your money back?
Hello this is a good thing but ive been getting letters stating how san mateo county is terminating my court order agreement because i missed my last month payment well not but three weeks ago i get a letter from state of california saying all my past court fines and fees and legal fines are no longer owed do to a bill past april 1 2021 well ive veen making payments tell i recieved the letter fom the state telling me im dont owe no more fine fees for past issues now im being threatened about how there going to attach and garnish my wages well the bill was past april 1 2021 ivemade three payments do i get my money back and these people need to start reading these laws this is causing me unnecessary strees and anxiety
Freedom of speach or is this being taking away
This is a great victory for justice and for common sense. It is sad that it took so long when it was so obviously the right thing to do. I hope it also erases court debt as San Francisco did. It must be frustrating for people who already paid a lot and may never see that money again. But it is a great day nonetheless. Thanks to all who lobbied for this and those who voted for it.
social injustice fines were set to be 100,ooo. For the buisness of providing racial disparaties and creating programs that bonus the rich out of the lifetime of stuggle and loss and money i was forced to become homeless and lose my things and then feeling 20 years older than i am … well bonus they dont live in the conditions they set up for over priced , and not worth the amount they charge for rundown and violations that have no value because my parking tickets cost more and the fact that if i was to go to court while homeless a judgement or law means nothing if you cant be stable to recieve it or fight while your exposed in the streeets… sounds fair and yet 2yr ago all the talk of people to be fined “buisness” practicing racism.. my daily enviornment … its so awful i want to just give up…TODAY IVE HAD 3 COVID PROGRAMS MAKE SURE I DONT RECIEVE ANY HELP BECAUSE I AM ON SSI AND THE RICHIE QUALIFIES AND NOT HAVING A KID PREVENTS ME FROM THE CALIFORNIA STIMULAS THAT I CANT SAY IM NOT DISABLED BUT YOUR REWARDED BY NOT HELPING THE DISABLED BY SAYING THEY HAVE TO WORK TO GET THE STIMULAS 600 AND OFCOURSE THE MOST DISCRIMINATING 1000 A MONTH FOR LIVABLE HELP IN MY SITUATION OF 1 PERSON DISABLED WITH 954 AND RENT 250 AND 100 EACH UTILITIES, 3 GAS , ELECTRIC AND PHONE , I HAVE 200 FS I RUN OUT AND FEEL SICK IF EAT THE CHEAP STUFF FULL OF SUGER AND MAKING YOU STRESS ABOUT UBER AND HAVING NO WAY TO DO LAUNDRY IN BUILDING OR HAVE AIR , BUT I PAY THE SAME AS RICHIE , WHO HAS ALL CLEAN AND INCLUDED PARKING NO DO I PAY MY 240 REGISTRATION AND ANOTHER LIC THAT DIDNT ARRIVE BECAUSE OF MY UNSECURE BUILDING MAIL ALWAYS TAKEN.. DISABLED PEOPLE HAVE NO RIGHTS I LIVE IN A BUILDING THAT LOOKS LIKE BUGS ARE IN THE HALL 20 YEAR OLD CARPET FULL OF MITES AND CIGG SMOKE REAKS AND IS NEVER BEEN CHANGED AND OVER MY LIFE I FEEL LIKE I PAY BEVERLY HILLS COSTS BUT LIVE IN TJ OR WORSE… WHILE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO DONT STOP THIS OVERCHARGING IS THE PEOPE MAKING THE USELESS RULES AND PROGRAMS FOR FRAUD ISNT TRANSPARENT AND NEVER DO YOU THINK MAYBE THE DISABLED SHOULD GET THE STIMULUS AND YEAH I PAY FOR INSURANCE AND REGISTRAATION BUT CANT FIX MY CAR SO WHO PAYS FOR DOUBLE PRICED UBER … ME YOU WANT TO GIVE US COVID OR I MIGHT HAVE LAUNDRY IN MY HOME IF I WAS SPECIAL ENOUGH LIKE THE RICHIES I COULD OF BOUGHT SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST REPLACING THE STUFF I LOST EVERYTIME I RETUREND TO HOMELESS. AND YEAH NO ONE GAVE ME HELP TO STOP ME LOSING A THING .. SO YOU CANT RUN A BUISNESS IF EVERYONE IS HOMELESS MAYBE YOU SHOULD LOSE YOUR HOUSE JUST ONCE WITHOUT BONUSING A PROGRAM TO PREVENT IT.. ITS THE FIRST TIME I GET TO SEE WHAT YOU HAVE SPENT A LIFE TIME TAKING FROM ME… WITH NO HELP.. I WISH A LAWYER WOULD OBVIOUSLY REALIZE THIS JOKE OF DISPARATY BY GARCETTI AND GOV TO ONLY GIVE HELP TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE A CHILD AND HAVE FILED W-2 WHAT A JOKE HELP WITH THE RICH BUISNESS PROGRAMS ARE RENT TO THE ILLEGAL SCAMS OF THE HOUSING DEPT… HELPING ROB ME DAILY NO DONT LET THEM LOSE THERE PROPERTIES… FROM HAVING NO HELP STILL WHILE 3 COVID PROGRAMS ARE STRAIT BARRIERS FOR DISABLED AND DONT INCLUDE THEM.. RACISM AND FRAUD AND BONUS AGIAN FOR JUST SPECIAL PEOPLE …PLEASE I WANTED TO FINISH COLLEGE BUT I COULDNT GET GTHE CLASS I NEED TO GRADUATE AND MY LOAN CREATED A WAY TO BLOCK ME FROM FINISHING WHILE WE BONUS OUR CITYS WITH FOREIGN STUDENTS WHO LOVE TO TAKE OUR JOBS AFTER GOING TO OUT SCHOOLS THEY CAN AFFORD AND WE CANT EVEN FINISH.. I DONT UNDERSTAND HOW COME THE FIRES AND RIOTS ARE OVER… I M SURE YOUR PROPERTIES WILL GET ASSISTANCE OVER AND OVER IF YOUR THE ONE MAKING THE DISCRIMINATING 1000 PEOPLE WHO WONT BE DISABLED OR SINGLE WITH NO CHILDREN … BUT SURE THATS NOT ANOTHER FRAUD TO CAUSE A FINE…. I SAW THEY WERE TO GIVE OUT FINES OF 100,00 AND NOT ONE FINE WAS GIVEN FOR THIS ABUSE OF OUR ECONOMY , DISABLED AND CORROPT NOT TRANSPARENT OR EVEN ABLE TO MAKE A PROGRAM FAIR ELECTED OFFICIALS.. YUCK I CALL BS