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Jail losing inmate fees

By Staff | Dec 13, 2009

Geary Wells

Thanks to a recent court ruling, Faribault County and other counties across the state have stopped charging inmates for room and board prior to their convictions.

“It will affect us, but what do you do. We’ll abide by the law,” says Sheriff Mike Gormley.

At issue was the state law referred to as “pay for stay,” which let counties bill people convicted of crimes for costs of their confinement before and following a conviction.

Gormley says the local jail immediately stopped charging inmates for their stay once learning of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling.

Jail administrator Geary Wells says this year the county has billed people who have been incarcerated a total of $150,000.

He says the company hired to collect the fees has received $37,439 so far.

Inmates at the county jail are charged $25 a day.

Wells says the daily charge is well below the actual cost.

“It was just a way for us to get back a little bit of what it costs to house them. It helps us pay for the upkeep of the building,” he says.

The jail administrator estimates the county will lose about 80 percent of its revenue going forward.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court said the law allows counties to requireoffenders to pay for “the cost of the offender’s room, board, clothing, medical, dental and other correctional services.”

But, the court said an offender is a person who has been convicted of a crime.

Gormley says county officials will still be able to charge other counties to house their inmates.

County authorities have been negotiating with some surrounding counties to take their prisoners.

Wells says the jail started taking inmates from Martin and Freeborn counties around Nov. 12.

He says the 12 out-of-county prisoners have generated $7,950 in room and board fees, so far this year.