Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation, sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope, ending the practice of the state government requiring parents of children committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice to pay some of the cost involved.

The measure, which goes into effect July 1 but might be implemented sooner, would eliminate “child support” payments required of parents whose children are incarcerated.

Hope, a Democrat from Arlington, termed the policy “unconscionable,” and said it was it was the only one of its kind within Virginia’s justice system.

The measure passed the House of Delegates 58-40 and the state Senate 22-17. Northam signed it on March 18.

State officials say the Department of Juvenile Justice receives about $435,000 annually from parents under the system. Officials have not yet responded to a Sun Gazette request for a breakdown of fees charged.

Laura Goren, research director at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, said “pay to stay” fees imposed harm on families, yet were inconsequential for the budget.

“The reality is that these fees were never about raising significant revenue,” she said. “In the context of Virginia’s budget, the money raised from these fees was negligible, yet the hardships they imposed on families were severe. Ending this practice was long overdue.”

Virginia joins a number of states that have reduced or eliminated fines and fees related to juvenile justice, including Maryland, California, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

“This law ends another unfair and overly punitive practice in Virginia’s juvenile-justice system and takes another step toward truly thriving communities that support and uplift all youth,” said Rachael Deane, director of the Youth Justice Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

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