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.