By Angela Wills
The Ohio ACLU reported on a new trending issue within the jails that involves inmates being forced to pay fees during incarceration.
A recent report done by ACLU of Ohio, “In Jail & In Debt: Ohio’s Pay-to-Stay Fees,” offers details behind the new system. According to the report, Ohio jails are charging those who are incarcerated, a fee to stay there. The report takes an inside look at the jails all over Ohio, documenting the impact and addressing policy comparisons and alternatives to jailing people while keeping them in a revolving cycle of debt.
According to the report, fees are assessed in two and, in some cases, three ways. There are booking, daily and sometimes release fees associated with the Pay-to-Stay system. Booking fees are incurred upon the booking process and can also be referred to as administration, reception or a processing fee. People may also be charged a daily fee, which is normally no more than the amount it costs to feed and house the inmate per day. Some counties in Ohio are also imposing a release fee, which covers the cost of processing the release of the inmate.
This new ‘Pay-to-Stay’ system is one that is drawing major criticism due to it creating a debtors prison. People are being sent to jail because they can’t afford to pay their court cost, but expected to pay to stay while in jail. According to directors of the Ohio ACLU, some of the fees can accrue to amounts up to $35,000.
This system is being recognized as one that presents another form of oppression to an already oppressed class of people. People who are locked up and at some point, are released with the jail debt still lingering.
Although there is no court to prosecute them and send them back to jail for failure to pay the fees, after a certain time the debt is reported to their credit. This is only another setback in life because this negative marking can prevent many of the necessary attempts that people make in life from happening. Home purchases, credit and in some cases jobs are denied due to negative credit ratings.
People who have been incarcerated and forced to pay these fees but can’t afford to do so, are forced to become victims of society. They are prevented from succeeding in any attempt to rectify their wrongs, and the Pay-to-Stay system further imposes a pattern of failure upon this society.