HB 749/SB 889 seeks to end the harmful practice of assessing fees and fines to youth in the justice system who can’t afford them.
In Tennessee, officials are authorized by law to charge families of young people involved in the justice system for costs of services, regardless of the family’s income level. Families could be charged fees and fines for expenses such as detention or placement, probation and supervision, diversion and treatment services, and administrative court costs. Fees and fines are linked to higher recidivism rates and push youth deeper into the criminal legal system.
Fees and fines could force families to choose between paying fees and fines or meeting basic needs, which would harm low-income families, especially those in rural Tennessee, and disproportionally affect Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth, who are overrepresented in the justice system.
Youth fee and fine repeal has gained national momentum and widespread, bipartisan support. To date, 20 states and 9 localities have acted to end some or all youth fees and fines, including Texas, Louisiana, and Virginia.
Tennessee’s future success depends on the resilience of nurtured, educated, and supported youth. Ending fees and fines for youth who can’t afford them is a practical and widely beneficial step for all Tennesseans.