OLYMPIA — Nearly two months after a group of Green Hill School inmates testified in Olympia on a bill that aims to reduce the financial burden and seal records sooner for juvenile offenders, Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law Thursday.
While the four inmates who told lawmakers their stories in March didn’t attend the signing, a large group of Senate Bill 5564 supporters did.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, a bill sponsor who attended the signing, previously said the main objectives of the bill are to decrease the barriers juvenile offenders face when reentering the community and to focus them on making victims as “whole” as possible.
The bill eliminates most non-restitution fines for juvenile offenders, and in certain cases would allow offenders to do community service instead of paying victim restitution. The community service would be chosen by the victim. The hours of work would be performed at a rate of the state minimum wage at the time. The bill also eliminates interest on restitution for youth offenders.
House amendments made last month impose victim penalty assessments on only juveniles convicted of a most serious offense defined by the Refined Code of Washington or a sex offense. Courts must order up to seven hours of community restitution for all other juvenile offenders, as long as it is practicable.
When juveniles pay their restitution and meet other criteria for sealing records, the court can seal their records.
Cities, towns and counties cannot impose financial obligations for juvenile offenses, unless specifically allowed under statute. Fines for various court, assessment, penalty, prosecution, sentence and other costs would be only charged to adult offenders.
If the state has not previously collected a juvenile offender’s DNA from a previous conviction, the minor will have to pay a DNA collection fee.
The Green Hill inmates, all members of the United Youth Council at the Chehalis juvenile detention center, testified at an Early Learning & Human Services Committee bill hearing in Olympia on March 18. They said with fewer fees to pay, the offenders could pay off restitution sooner to seal their records. Having a sealed juvenile record will make it easier for them to get jobs, they said.
“I am just one out of thousands,” Green Hill inmate Antonio Vasquez said in March.
“This bill can have a positive impact on families, youth and community. Many of us are trying to take responsibility and make a change, but what can we do when faced with significant roadblocks?”