In Jail and Indebted: Ohio Pay to Stay Fees

In the State of Ohio, pay to stay jail fees are an increasingly common form of funding, and often is a consequence of our reliance on over incarceration. As the ACLU recently commented:

Pay-to-stay jail fees are the next generation of unending debts that seek to tether low-income people to the criminal justice system. These fees are charged against people simply because they are in jail. They are a “non-criminal fee,” meaning that a person cannot be incarcerated for failure to pay them. However, in practice, they operate with little difference from a modern-day debtors’ prison. These fees are insidious: loading formerly incarcerated people with increasing amounts of debt that make it nearly impossible for even the most well-meaning person to become a productive member of society. While incarcerated, the fees are usually taken from a prisoner’s commissary fund, which is often funded by their family to allow their loved one to purchase phone cards or small comforts to make their stay in jail more bearable. Once released from jail, the debts are often handed over to collections agencies that hound the person until they pay. If they cannot pay, the debt is reported to the credit agency, effectively making it impossible to gain employment, housing, transportation, and so much more.

According the the ACLU report released in Fall of 2015, these fees are widespread and have predictably devastating effects on the purported “rehabilitative” function of our criminal justice system.

Ohio has 88 counties, with well over a hundred jails throughout the state. We focused this study on full service jails, which totaled 75 jails in 74 counties. Out of the 75 county facilities , 40 charge a pay-to-stay fee for incarceration, either through a booking fee, a daily fee or both.

If you or a loved one has been charged a pay to stay fee, call the Law Office of Dennis E. Sawan to learn if your constitutional rights have been violated.

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