Boots & Sabers

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2032, 15 Jul 22

Poor Young Criminals Saddled with Debt

Cry me a river. Remember that ever order of restitution is to repay the victim they robbed.

She entered the juvenile justice system at 13, after she ran away from home for the first time, hoping to escape a volatile relationship with her mother. Before long, running away escalated to petty theft, then stealing cars and breaking into homes. It cost her nearly two years spent in and out of juvenile facilities, and many additional months still tied to the system through probation.


When her final stint on probation ended last year and her juvenile record was sealed because she had turned 18, “It was like a whole chapter of my life that had been closed,” Guevara said. “I was free.”

But before long she began receiving monthly reminders that she was anything but. Bills totaling $60,000 in restitution owed for her crimes began pouring in, drowning the teenager in debt just as she had started trying to get back on her feet.


Guevara, now 19, is one of thousands of teenagers and young adults across the country paying restitution imposed by juvenile courts to compensate their victims for losses and damages related to their crimes. But a new report examining the practice asserts that many are paying into a broken system — one that often derails the lives of the young offenders the juvenile system was created to rehabilitate, all the while delaying or even denying compensation to their victims.


The report, published Thursday by the Juvenile Law Center, a national legal aid and advocacy group based in Philadelphia, sheds light on a rarely scrutinized process through which juvenile offenders can become trapped in a perpetual cycle of debts owed to society.


2032, 15 July 2022


  1. penquin

    ever order of restitution is to repay the victim they robbed

    Not quite true – the article goes on to state that Fourteen jurisdictions order restitution to be paid to third parties, such as government agencies and insurance companies, while others require young people to pay into state victim compensation funds, which are difficult for many victims to access. Rest of the story also explains how “justice by geography” is applied in this situation, and it looks pretty obvious that this is yet another way to put a quasi-life sentence upon minorities who commit crimes.

    While it is true that crime victims should be made whole, this story shows how messed-up & broken the current system is and the need for serious reform. Thanks for posting it & increasing awareness.

  2. Mar

    So, Penquin, insurance companies and government agencies should just eat the costs that the young thugs incurred?
    You do the crime, you do the time, including the expenses they caused for everyone.

  3. penquin

    You do the crime, you do the time, including the expenses they caused for everyone.

    That was my knee-jerk reaction as well when I first read this blog post. But then after actually digging into the article, it’s obvious that its a bit more complicated than that.

    Like most discussions regarding our justice system, it basically boils down to the whole “punishment vs rehabilitation” disagreement, and there are strong arguments that can be made for both sides. In this case, the question boils down to Should a child who commits a property crime receive a lifetime of punishment for doing so? Is that really the best way to ensure they get back on the right path and become a productive&positive member of society?

    And actually, that should be “a child being raised in a middle-class or poor household”….because like most of the problems of being caught up in the American justice system, this is one that can just go away if you pay it off. But that is a whole ‘nother discussion right there.

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