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Ohio Jails Find Loophole to Again Charge Booking Fees

Lockups in suburban Cincinnati just aren’t as profitable as they once were. So sheriff’s offices in southwestern Ohio’s Hamilton and Butler counties are charging prisoners for the time they’re forced to spend in jail.

More than 10 years ago, a federal judge ruled that the “reception fees” jail prisoners were paying to both counties were unconstitutional. [See: PLN, Sept. 2010, p.30; Aug. 2003, p.21]. According to Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer, the jails have since found a loophole: Only convicted prisoners will be required to pay the fees.

“Any revenue stream out there is worth going after,” Dwyer told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In July 2011, Butler County began collecting $20 booking fees, which presumably will be applied to the jail’s annual operating expenses of $5 million.

Hamilton County resumed charging fees ($40 per convicted prisoner) in 2008. County data indicates the fees amount to almost $200,000 annually.

After losing in court a decade ago, Hamilton County was ordered to reimburse jail prisoners approximately $1 million and spend another $150,000 for prisoner education.
Butler County, which detains fewer prisoners, had to refund $64,000 and donate $5,000 to the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.

Like so many schemes designed to generate more money for county jails, booking or “reception” fees were popularized by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who as recently as 2009 charged prisoners a short-lived “per diem” fee of $1.25 for meals.
Ohio has allowed counties to charge prisoners a processing fee, and make them pay for room and board, as well as medical and dental visits, since 1996. However, the reception fees can only be charged to convicted prisoners, not pre-trial detainees.

Sources: Associated Press, Cincinnati Enquirer

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