Several lawmakers, advocates call for elimination of court fees

ALBANY – State Sen. Julia Salazar held a hearing Wednesday for a piece of legislation that would eliminate things like mandatory minimum court fines and New York’s court, parole and probation fees.

"I’m still trying to figure out, when will my punishment end?" said Alisha Kohn, with the Newburgh LGBTQIA+ Center.

Kohn spent 10 years in prison for a crime she committed when she was 17. She’s out of jail and has been home for four years, but she’s still struggling with court fees.

"When I lost my job in the middle of a pandemic, and I couldn’t pay the fines, I got shown up with my parole officer and four police officers telling me I need to submit my payment, or I am going back to prison," she explained. "For $75 a month."

Advocates say Kohn isn’t alone in her experience, and they say New York’s court fees and fines criminalize people in poverty and endanger people of color.

"For poor and working-class New Yorkers these automatic fees take away from our ability to feed our families and pay for housing," said Peggy Herrera of the Center for Community Alternatives and New York Communities For Change.

That’s exactly why Salazar from Brooklyn introduced the End Predatory Court Fees Act, which would eliminate things like New York’s court, parole, and probation fees, mandatory minimum fees, and incarceration based on unpaid fines.

"It is deeply unjust that when an individual in New York reenters society to recover, to get back on their feet, that they are burdened heavily with these fines," Salazar said. "Frankly, they are not even a very effective or efficient way for generating revenue for our state."

NewsChannel 13 reached out to the governor’s office and the New York Court System for comment and is waiting to hear back.

To read the entire piece of legislation, click here.