The Eliminating Debtor’s Prison for Kids Act of 2019 (HR 2300, 116th Congress) would establish the Youth Mental Health Grant program to provide grants, under the purview of the Department of Justice (DOJ), for evidence-based mental and behavioral health services to certain youth (i.e., individual under 21) found to be at risk (i.e., individual “likely to fail academically without intervention”). Specifically, the grant would target providing services to youth in schools, state detention facilities, or state correctional facilities. States would be eligible to apply for these grants if: (i) the states do not mandate that a juvenile offender or their family pay fees relating to the misdeed (e.g., cost of public defender, cost of prosecution, court administrative costs), (ii) the states do not mandate that the parent or guardian of the offender pay for detention, and (iii) the states apply through the DOJ. The Act authorizes $500 million annually for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for such grants.
The Act further would require a report from a non-governmental organization focused on criminal justice, chosen by the DOJ, to report to Congress on the state of fines and fees levied on juvenile offenders and their caregivers in the criminal justice system. The Act authorizes $2 million for 2020 to fund this report.
HR 2300 was introduced by Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29) in an attempt to eliminate fines and fees levied on juvenile offenders and their caregivers in the criminal justice system.