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Articles by Lauren-Brooke Eisen

Paying for Your Time: How Charging Inmates Fees Behind Bars May Violate the Excessive Fines Clause

by Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law


In 1846, the United States saw the birth of the first correctional fee law when Michigan enacted legislation authorizing counties to charge sentenced jail inmates for the costs of medical care.3 A century and a half later in 1985, reacting to the rising costs of operating the Macomb County jail, the Sheriff and the County Board of Commissioners began collecting up to $60 a day from inmates behind bars.4 Today, the Macomb County Jail bills prisoners for: room and board, work release,5 physicals, dental visits, medication, prescriptions, nurse sick calls, and hospital medical treatment.6

Currently, Macomb County’s story is replayed in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country that charge fees to inmates for programs, functions, and services.7 Over the past forty years, the United States radically increased its use of prisons to combat crime. Consequently, the country’s state prison population grew by more than 700 percent since the 1970s.8 As a result, the United States boasts less than five percent of the world’s population but holds close to twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners.9 With the explosive correctional growth, state correctional costs have ...