Our new San Francisco mayor London Breed just announced that the city will waive $32 million worth of administrative court fees for 21,000 people. These are fees for things like probation or booking charges demanded from people going through the criminal justice system often leaving them in debt. Many of the people forced to pay these fees are low income and they end up having their wages garnished and their credit ruined making getting housing and employment more difficult.
When Breed was on the Board of Supervisors, she led an effort to push through legislation that prohibited the city and county court systems from demanding charges such as booking fees and probation costs from people going through the system. That legislation passed, but it was not retroactive, which meant that thousands of people were still on the hook for millions of dollars worth of administrative fees.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office successfully petitioned the court on behalf of 21,000 people to get the fees waived.
“We should be actively helping people to get their lives back on track after they have paid their debt to society,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Garnishing the wages of people facing the challenging task of securing employment and housing can make that impossible.”
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Anne Stuhldreher, director of San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project, said “These fees are designed to recoup costs, and they don’t do that. We need to fund our criminal justice system in a more fair and just way than on the backs of poor people,”