US makes prisoners pay
OHIO — A widespread practice in the United States (US) known as “pay to stay” charges jail inmates a daily fee while they are incarcerated. For those who are in and out of the local county or city lock-ups — particularly those struggling with addiction — that can lead to sky-high debts.
David Mahoney is $21,000 in debt. Not from credit cards. Not from school loans.
He’s accumulated the massive tab because of the days he spent locked up in the local jail in Marion, Ohio, which is a small town with a major heroin epidemic. Mahoney, a lanky 41-year-old, has struggled with addiction since he was a teenager, eventually stealing to fuel his habit. He got caught a lot, even burgling the same bar twice.
“The urge to use cocaine and crack — that’s what it led to it. Once I start using there’s no going back for me,” he says.
Today, he’s 14 months sober, and is a resident and employee of the Arnita Pittman Community Recovery Center, a sober living house on the northern edge of town. His counsellor says he is doing “awesome” and he hopes to one day to become an addiction counsellor himself.
But while Mahoney may have left his habits behind, he can’t shake his debt. It has accumulated over 15 years of trouble with the law and is a separate charge from the restitution he must pay to the victims he stole from, or any administrative costs he has incurred by going to court. It comes from a daily “pay-tostay” fee — sometimes called “pay for stay” — that he was charged by the local jail, the Multi-county Correctional Center. He was charged $50 each day he spent in jail, plus a $100 booking fee. It works almost as if he checked into a hotel and got a bill when he checked out.
“Obviously, it’s my fault I’m in the situation I am in. I’m trying to start over,” he says. “People that end up in jail are usually down on their luck anyway. They’re going through some trials and tribulations in life. Why focus on the people who are already struggling?”
He is not alone — the guy that lives down the hall from him at the sober living house
United States introduces what is known as “pay to stay” charges jail inmates a daily fee.