When Philadelphia children are incarcerated, the City bills their parents for the costs of confining them. And if parents don’t pay, the City garnishes wages, withdraws funds from bank accounts, or garnishes tax refunds.
Justice Lab students Sela Cowger, Kelsey Grimes and Wesley Stevenson worked this spring with their client, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, to seek a moratorium on this practice. The team’s research included interviews with attorneys who represent children, the City attorney who handles collections against parents, and parents who had been sued. The students also met with members of Mayor Kenney’s administration. While the problem is not yet fixed, there’s reason to be optimistic that it will be soon.
Ms. Stevenson commented: “What struck me most was that every single person we talked to about our project was outraged that the City would charge parents to incarcerate their own children. From the social worker, to our friends outside of law school, to acquaintances I know in my neighborhood, everyone agreed: it’s just not right. That consensus provided me with clarity and a sense that my team’s work mattered and could have real impact, both in changing everyday lives but also changing attitudes. And it inspired us to extend the length of our project; some of our team will be returning to this fight in the fall semester in the hope that the City will end this harmful policy before the end of the year.”