Parents billed for children’s jail time


Police officers patrolling the streets of Chico during Cesar Chavez weekend last year. Photo credit: Michael Catelli

Although going to jail as a child seems like a harsh punishment, the actual burden is being placed on the parents who are forced to pay a bill for the incarceration.

Parents must pay a nightly rate for the detention, as bills run up to $1,000 a month in places like Philadelphia, according to the Washington Post. Most families who have detained children are disadvantaged, and can only afford monthly installments of $5.

Charging parents for their children’s jail time is everything that is wrong with America today. Parent’s should be responsible for their children, but they cannot completely control them, especially for minors attending Chico State.

The university is filled with 17-year-old first-year students, who can get swept up by the party scene. Those students’ actions could cause their parents to be billed up to $30 a day for juvenile hall, and $17 a day for ankle monitoring.

The Marshall Project wrote that groups of law students and juvenile defense lawyers have begun to challenge this payment system because it is punishing the parents with their child’s debt.

Children who are delinquents tend to come from low-income families. Aside from having to deal with the emotional strains of having a child be put in jail, hearing that there is also an expensive fee due to this will only create more burden on these families.

California as a state does not bill parents, but allows most of its counties to profit off of child incarceration, according to the Marshall Project.

Although it is not the taxpayer’s duty to support these “bad kids”, there are times when families need help. Parent’s should take responsibility for their children, but not every family is structured or successful enough to do so.

Putting more economic pressure on the parents of incarcerated children is unlikely to benefit the family. If parent’s knew that they were going to get charged for their child’s jail time, the most appropriate response would be to lock children away.

Parents should not have to pay for these situations, let alone their children’s mistakes.

Rachel Reyes can be reached at [email protected] or @rachhreyes on Twitter.