Criminal Justice

Pay-to-Stay Jail Fees Undermine Successful Re-entry

11.30.15

Imagine being billed for your time in jail. This is a reality for many Ohioans. Pay-to-stay jail fees are the fees charged by local jails to people while they are incarcerated. Away from friends and family, missing time at work and school, people are then burdened with heavy debts after they have served their time.

A new ACLU of Ohio report, “In Jail & In Debt: Ohio’s Pay to Stay Fees,” details the prevalence of pay-to-stay fees across the state. More than half of jails, 40 of the 75, charge people for their incarceration through a booking fee, a daily fee, or both. Ohioans are getting billed up to $66.09 a day to be in jail.

Pay-to-stay fees feed cycles of debt and incarceration:

  • Incarcerated people are charged booking fees, daily fees, or a combination of both.
  • These charges may be taken from commissary accounts while incarcerated.
  • Upon release individuals receive bills totaling hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
  • Many are unable to pay these debts and they are turned over to collections agencies.
  • Harassment from collections takes a toll on daily living and relationships.
  • Credit reports showing this debt significantly impact and restrict access to housing, employment, and education.

The justification for charging these fees is that counties might recoup some of the cost of incarceration, but this just is not true. The vast majority of people in jail are indigent and cannot pay steep fees, and several counties suspended these policies because they do not work.

Learn more and read the full report at www.acluohio.org/InJailInDebt.

Many in Ohio are turning away from outdated and dangerous ‘tough on crime’ policies that punish people to the detriment of our communities. Leaders are increasingly seeking new ways to reduce mass incarceration and support policies that will promote redemption and rehabilitation. Ending pay-to-stay jail fees will go a long way in doing that.

An older version of this report was published in 2013, Adding It Up: The Financial Realities of Ohio’s Pay-To-Stay Policies, to highlight the injustice and futility of pay-to-stay fee programs.