For our “Social justice spotlight” series, we ask students who participate in Sheller Center clinics and programs to talk a bit about their experience. This week, we hear from Wes Stevenson, a third-year law student.
Over the past year, I’ve been working with the Sheller Center’s Justice Lab Clinic to end the City of Philadelphia’s practice of charging parents for their children’s incarceration costs. During that time, every person I’ve talked to about the issue has expressed the same outrage and confusion I felt when I first learned this was happening. Yes, this really happens, and it happens all across the nation.
This work is critical because the practice is fundamentally unjust, it hurts families during a critical time, and it has no real financial benefit for the City. And it has been going on for a long time. Our work has been about ending the practice so no more families face these support orders. But it has also been about holding the City accountable, for imposing these costs on working families for years, and ensuring that when the practice does end, it ends for good.
Philadelphia City Council has scheduled a hearing on the practice for March 3, 2017, at 11:00 a.m., in the Council chamber at City Hall. I am grateful for the opportunity to testify at that hearing, alongside affected parents and advocates, and I’m hopeful that by the time I graduate, these collections will have officially stopped.