News

County supervisors support ending court admin fees

Board set for final vote on ordinance next week

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to approve an ordinance that eliminates administrative court fees for people who are convicted of crimes.

If the full board votes as expected to approve a second reading of the ordinance next Tuesday (Dec. 4), Alameda County will become only the second county in the U.S. to eliminate the fees, following San Francisco, which took that step earlier this year.

In addition, $26 million in court administrative fees that haven't been collected will be waived.

The new policy would take effect in January.

Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and other groups told the board that the fees should be eliminated because they create a long-term financial burden for low-income people who already served time for their crimes but then have problems turning their lives around.

They said that's because the debts cause such people to have problems getting credit, housing and jobs.

Currently, Alameda County charges defendants probation supervision fees of between $30 to $90 per month, pre-charge investigation report fees of between $250 and $710 and $150 or more for representation by the Public Defender's Office.

Advocates for eliminating the fees said the average adult on probation in Alameda County spends five years under supervision and can face more than $6,000 in fees.

Noe Gudino, a junior at California State University East Bay who is a member of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of Us or None and other groups said the fees made it harder for him to get his life back on track after he was incarcerated because when he got a job his wages were garnished.

Julia Root of the Center for Employment Opportunities told the board that the fees cause "undue emotional and financial stress" for incarcerated people and their families and said she has a family member who could face up to $10,000 in fees when he's released in the near future.

The ordinance approved by the board says the fees "can have long-term effects that can undermine successful societal re-entry goals of the formerly-incarcerated, such as attaining stable housing, transportation and employment."

Woods said after the meeting that the fees "are a tremendous burden to people who are trying to get back on their feet" after serving time.

He said eliminating the fees "is the right thing to do."

County Administrator Susan Muranishi told the board that eliminating the fees means the county will lose about $1.45 million in revenue annually but said the county will explore other funding opportunities to replace that revenue.

— Bay City News Service

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:50 am

Why don't the county do something to reward normal law-abiding citizens? Criminals are once again being rewarded for being bad.

The DMV recently raised all yearly registration fees by almost $100. It's a burden on my to pay. Will the county vote to eliminate that fee!?


7 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Nov 30, 2018 at 9:23 pm

Totally fine with me if they want to fund it out of their pension or political fundraising campaigns.


5 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Taxpayer
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Dec 1, 2018 at 1:37 am

'County Administrator Susan Muranishi told the board that eliminating the fees means the county will lose about $1.45 million in revenue annually but said the county will explore other funding opportunities to replace that revenue."

Of course, we law-abiding, tax-paying suckers will end up being the "funding opportunity." Susan Muranishi gets paid about $700K/yr. Her salary alone would cover half of these fees, and I'm sure there are many other overpaid administrators in Alameda co. Not to mention their pensions.


5 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 2, 2018 at 7:18 pm

The next Bennie for those poor criminals would be to eliminate all jail time, wipe their records clean and maybe get them a nice high paying job that doesn’t require them to show up or “produce “ to collect a paycheck. Eliminating those admin fees is right up there with making the criminals families have to make their way out to the new courthouse In Dublin to attend the hearings of those poor criminals
Such a hardship on everybody.
What’s happening with this county and this state, the inmates are running the prison!!


1 person likes this
Posted by Empathy and Results
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Cue the taxpayers, who will moan about how "criminals have it good" and we have to pay the bill.

1) Suck it up, people. YES, we have to pay the bill. You want a criminal justice system, with working courts, and bad guys in jail, then yeah, you have to pay for it.

2) Gain some empathy. I've never been arrested, but I understand the people that often are. Many are living hand to mouth and day by day. A $200 court bill is an amount that can haunt them for years. There is NO extra money. And their tiny bills add up on them. Do you know how much they get charged to make phone calls from jails? Web Link

Good/lucky/rich people who've never been to jail have no idea the many fees and charges that get levied on convicts, and people who aren't even eventually convicted. Just because they're easy targets, and get no sympathy from YOU. If they a lawyer who's got more than 20 minutes to prep their case? That's really gonna cost. Oh, and they've lost their job after a week in jail, and now can't get one. Have some empathy for the trap these people are caught in.

3) So, you say, "Whatever. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Sure, but as I mentioned, it's a lot more than the time. Now, what do YOU AND I really want? Less crime. Less risk for us. OK, so how does the current system work for us? What's the rate of recidivism? Because what I want is to have more reform, and less recidivism. Lumping debt after debt on these convicts, and making sure they have almost NO legal recourse to pay the debts off is almost a sure-fire recipe into forcing them to do ILLEGAL ways of earning money. Forget empathy, this isn't good for ME.

Listen, I was like all you people 20 years ago. "Tough on crime" sounded good to me. Three strikes sounded like a great dis-incentive for bad guys to be bad. But here's what's happened since. That all failed. Badly. The data is in. We're not reforming criminals, we're creating a permanent underclass like the old Indian Caste system. We lock more people up than any other country, and we punish them even after they're released. "Tough on crime" may *feel* like justice, but it's just revenge. It doesn't work for anyone. What works? A good economy, education, and jobs are better ways to fight crime than punishment. Why don't we learn from our mistakes instead of doubling down.


1 person likes this
Posted by Empathy and Results
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:18 pm

And don't get me started on the Bail system. Do regular folks even have a clue how that works? Let me give you the skinny.

Let's say on a Saturday, two people get arrested for Disturbing the Peace during a legal protest. One is Rich, one is Poor. Neither one is eventually convicted or even formally charged, but for now they're in jail over the weekend with bail of $5000. Rich calls his wife, who gets together the $5K and bails him out, because he doesn't want to be in jail for the weekend, and has important meetings on Monday. Poor can't put together $5k, but he has to work on the weekend and Monday, and can't lose his job. So his wife goes to a Bail Bondsman, a predatory industry, that posts his bail for a $500 (10% fee is standard).

On Tuesday, both are arraigned, and the DA decides not to press charges, and the judge releases them. Rich gets ALL his $5k back, poor is out $500 and his kids aren't getting Christmas presents this year. Yay! the system

Freedom (getting out on bail) is free for the rich people, but expensive for the poor people. WTF? Both these guys are innocent, but it just costs money and/or time to be poor in the system.


1 person likes this
Posted by Injustice
a resident of Ironwood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Empathy and Results, You are absolutely on target, "we're creating a permanent underclass ". The justice system is broken, it creates criminals to sustain itself. It is a toxic vortex that sucks people in and won't let go. You do not need to be guilty of anything to get sucked in. Careers are made by ruining lives.
I have never been in the system but I have seen the injustice and damage it does.


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