Pay to stay – leave in debt

You learn something new every day. I stumbled across this amazing piece at the BBC website:

The US inmates charged per night in jail

A widespread practice in the 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.

So, I read that, pick myself up the floor and resume reading.

We hear about some actual cases:

David Mahoney is $21,000 (£13,650) 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.


He is not alone – the guy that lives down the hall from him at the sober living house owes nearly $22,000. Yet a third resident has them both beat at $35,000. Anecdotally (and confirmed by the Multi-County jail’s administrator) they know of at least one other man in town who owes $50,000.

Yes, these guys are convicted criminals. But these debts are in addition to fines and restitution. It’s a barbaric example of capitalism gone out of control, with no heart. While this piece is unlikely to be the whole story, and it may be that these cases are unusual exceptions, even one case would be one too many. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Read the whole thing here.