Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor announced that a $50,000 grant received by the Controller’s office will be utilized to clear the records of former juvenile offenders who have satisfied all other conditions of the judgments against them.
The Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender will develop guidelines for the program, including which offences are eligible for relief and the amount available to each applicant.
Juvenile records are generally cleared at age 21 if all judgments are satisfied, but if fines and fees are not paid in full the past charges remain on the record, complicating efforts of former offenders to secure housing and employment.
“This program will benefit youth who have paid for their mistakes and are seeking a fresh start. Their prospects for success are hindered as long as monetary judgments which they are unable to pay remain on their record,” Controller O’Connor said. “I am pleased to be able to devote these private grant funds received by my office to this effort to help young people overcome this hurdle to achieving their potential.”
The grant from the Cities & Counties Fine and Fee Justice Initiative of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity, was received by the Controller’s office in 2020. A Fines and Fees working group convened by the Controller’s office devised the grant program that will distribute these funds within Allegheny County. As part of this effort, the Controller’s Office conducted a review of outstanding fines and fees which showed nearly $478 million in unpaid fines, fees and restitution from over 250,000 cases, probably stretching back decades. For cases with balances at the close of 2020, 83 percent of fines, fees and restitution assessed were outstanding.
“I’m hopeful that this grant program for select former juvenile offenders can show that relieving fines and fees can be an effective strategy for helping recipients build brighter futures, and that this may lead to government or private funding organizations pursuing similar efforts moving forward,” O’Connor said. “As Controller, I am committed to exploring this type of innovative initiative which can have real impact on our residents and communities.”