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Philadelphia ends practice of billing parents for their children time in detention

By Eli Hager, reporter, The Marshall Project

The city of Philadelphia announced Friday that it will stop billing parents for the cost of their children’s incarceration, just hours after a front-page Marshall Project story in The Washington Post highlighted the practice in the city and across the nation.

Billing parents for incarcerating their children goes far beyond Philadelphia and is rooted in decades-old social policy based on the belief that families were shedding responsibility for delinquent children and expecting the government to pick up the tab.

Nineteen states and county-level juvenile justice systems in 28 other states now charge parents for jailing juveniles, often using a child-support model to determine the cost and collect debt, the story found. But there are some signs of change: A county-by-county effort to end the collections is also underway in California, where a bill to abolish the practice outright has been introduced in the state legislature.

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