Inmates Charged for being in Jail

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
(photo: Getty Images)

It is said crime does not pay, but it sure does for some jails.


A new report from the ACLU of Ohio reveals the majority of jails it examined in Ohio charge prisoners “pay to stay” fees that can reach thousands of dollars. The fees are even levied against the poor, despite state law that’s supposed to prevent it.


Of the 75 jails reviewed by the ACLU, 40 charge a one-time booking fee or a daily fee that can amount to crippling debt for those incarcerated for long periods. The ACLU found the daily fee can be as high as $66.09 a day.


Some former inmates have pay-to-stay bills totaling tens of thousands of dollars, according to the BBC. David Mahoney owes $21,000 for his stay in the Marion, Ohio, jail on drug charges. He’s now out of jail and is clean, but has a huge bill staring him in the face. “Obviously, it’s my fault I'm in the situation I am in. I’m trying to start over,” Mahoney told the BBC. “People that end up in jail are usually down on their luck anyway. They’re going through some trials and tribulations in life. Why focus on the people who are already struggling?”


The impact of charging former inmates goes even beyond the immediate financial struggle. “People impacted by pay-to-stay fees suffer financially,” the report states. “These fees are often reported to collections agencies, meaning they appear on credit reports. This narrows employment options and dashes opportunities for home ownership. These fees add additional financial stress as many people are still responsible for their monthly bills, rent, child support, school loans, and other financial obligations.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

In Jail & In Debt: Ohio’s Pay-to-Stay Fees (American Civil Liberties Union)

The U.S. Inmates Charged per Night in Jail (by Jessica Lussenhop, BBC News)

Here's the Absurd Amount of Money Jails Charge Inmates Just for Being Locked Up (by Zeeshan Aleem, Mic)

Justice for the Poor…No Bail, Stay in Jail (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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