We are thrilled to report that a number of groundbreaking financial justice bills have made their way through the Legislature and are headed to the Governor’s desk for signature! These bills will advance racial and economic justice across California and build off reforms made in San Francisco. As always, we are deeply grateful to our many dedicated and fearless partners we work with in coalition to advance these reforms.
Families Over Fees Act (AB 1869) (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles)
The Families Over Fees Act is a first-in-the-nation bill that will end the harmful and costly collection of 23 administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal legal system. The bill will eliminate monthly probation fees and fees for public defenders, booking, reports, electronic monitoring, and others. These fees heap thousands of dollars of debt on people who cannot pay it, drive people deeper into poverty, and create barriers to their successful re-entry. The fees disproportionately impact low-income communities of color and further entangle them in the criminal legal system. Also, the collection rates are very low, and studies show some counties spend more to collect these fees than they bring in.
In 2018, San Francisco became the first in the country to eliminate our local criminal justice fees and lift $32 million in debt off of 21,000 residents. Alameda, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles Counties have since followed in eliminating fees, lifting a formidable financial burden off of people and easing their re-entry. Thank you to our many partners in the Debt Free Justice Coalition for championing and propelling this bill.
Jail FACTS (Fair Access for Connections To Support) Act (SB 555) (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles)
The Jail FACTS Act will dramatically lower the cost of phone and video calls in jails and juvenile lockups and lower prices in jail commissary/stores. These reforms will lift a significant financial burden off of incarcerated people and their families and make communication, food, and hygiene items more affordable. The greatest indicator of an incarcerated person’s successful re-entry is their ability to remain connected to their loved ones and community on the outside. Making goods and services affordable for incarcerated people keeps them connected, healthy, and ready to return to their community.
SB 555 builds off reforms made in San Francisco to stop profiting off of incarcerated people and their families and to lift a financial burden off of them. Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first county in the nation to make jail phone calls free and end pricy markups in the jail commissary store. We are grateful to our dedicated co-sponsors for championing this bill over the past two years.
Finally, we are excited that two bills that will strengthen and support low-income families and children across California are on the Governor’s desk. We are grateful to our partners in the Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition, 50+ organizations that have advocated for equitable reform to our state’s child support system.
AB 2325 (Carrillo, D-Los Angeles)
AB 2325 will prevent child support obligations from piling up while the non-custodial parent is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized. When non-custodial parents leave jail or prison with years of child support debt that is owed to the government, children and families suffer.
AB 2338 (Weber, D-San Diego)
AB 2338 will prevent the incarceration of non-custodial parents who owe child support debt to the government and would allow the court to grant an alternative, such as probation or a conditional sentence. There is no evidence that imprisonment helps people who owe child support orders become more able to pay and incarcerating a child’s parent significantly interferes with the child-parent relationship.