Pay-To-Stay Prisons? Ohio Jails Hit Inmates With Fees While Incarcerated

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A new report from the Ohio ACLU details a growing problem in prison, where inmates are forced to pay fees while incarcerated.

From the ACLU of Ohio:

The ACLU of Ohio is the first to collect and analyze pay-to-stay policies statewide with the report In Jail & In Debt: Ohio’s Pay-to-Stay Fees. Pay-to-stay jail fees are the fees charged by local jails to people while they are incarcerated. This report takes a comprehensive look at jails across the state, compares policies, documents impact, and proposes new recommendations to stop locking people in cycles of incarceration and debt.

In the report, In Jail & In Debt, the ACLU describes the nature of the fees and how they are incurred as follows:

Pay-to-stay fees are typically charged two ways: booking fees and daily fees. People may be assessed a booking fee upon arrival (also referred to as a processing fee, reception fee, or administrative fee). In addition to a booking fee people may be charged a daily fee. This is not supposed to exceed the cost of housing and feeding the person for each day of incarceration. Additionally, a few county’s also charge release fees, which cover the cost of processing a person out of jail.

Thursday on NewsOne Now, Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director, Ohio ACLU, and Derrick C., a formerly incarcerated activist, spoke with guest host Ray Baker about the heinous practice of creating a “debtors-prison” in which assessed fees can be as high as $35,000.

Brickner explained that the pay-to-stay fees are the “new debtors prison, people are hearing about folks being sent to jail because they can’t pay their court fines and fees.”

“What pay-to-stay jail fees do is, they drown people in debt and so when they come out of our local county jails, they might have tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and so there may not be a court that actually physically sends them back to jail, but when you come out with that much debt and it’s reported on your credit history and your credit is ruined, it’s almost impossible to get a job, to get housing, to get educational opportunities,” Brickner said.

He added, “If you take all of those opportunities away from people, it becomes so much more difficult to re-enter society and become successful.” As a result, Brickner said those who are trapped in this cycle of debt are sentenced to a “life-long prison of poverty and criminalization.”

Activist Derrick C. lived through his own pay-to-stay nightmare in the Ohio prison system, he told Baker. Pay-to-stay fees equate to “double jeopardy,” he said.

“People who have been incarcerated are victimized by our capitalist society. They look at it as a target population that they can exploit and as you look, there’s a lot of exploitation going on” as it relates to private prisons.

The formerly incarcerated activist then told Baker, “When I walk into a bank because I’m an entrepreneur and I say well, I would like to get a loan, they don’t really do a background check — they do a credit check — and guess what pops onto my credit check? The fact that I owe a regional jail.”

Watch guest host Ray Baker, Ohio ACLU’s Mike Brickner, activist Derrick C., and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the pay-to-stay practices and their impact on the formerly incarcerated in the video clip above.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watchNewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

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