Young People Who Can't Pay Court Fees Are Getting Trapped In The Criminal Justice System

Children across the country aren’t able to leave the juvenile criminal justice system when administrative fines and fees pile up. A new bill in Congress would end this.

Washington- Shyara Hill’s five-year struggle with the criminal justice system started because she hit a boy at school who had been bullying her little brother.

Hill was 16 years old and a student at Upper Darby High School, a Philadelphia-area school with more than 3,500 students. She was sent to the office of a vice principal who never showed up. She says that after hours of waiting, she tried to leave, and that’s when security guards blocked her. When she tried to push past them, they charged her with assault.

“Every time I tried to squeeze between them, they’d say ‘Assault one, assault two,’” she said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service and a year of probation.

“They told me that if I just pled guilty to whatever they said I did, I would just have a record and it would be gone when I turned 18. And I wouldn’t have to worry about anything,” she said. “Then I found out that’s not true.”