Lauren-Brooke Eisen looks at the historical and present day practice of prisons charging inmates fees for costs related to their incarceration, including related case law.
Is Charging Inmates to Stay in Prison Smart Policy?
The American criminal justice system is replete with fees that attempt to shift costs from the government to those accused and convicted of breaking the law. Courts impose monetary sanctions on a substantial majority of the millions of U.S. residents convicted of felony and misdemeanor crimes. There are an estimated 10 million people who owe more than $50 billion resulting from their involvement in the criminal justice system.
In the last few decades, fees have proliferated, such as charges for police transport, case filing, felony surcharges, electronic monitoring, drug testing, and sex offender registration. Unlike fines, whose purpose is to punish, and restitution, which is intended to compensate crime victims, user fees are intended to raise revenue. This map details which statutes authorize state and county correctional facilities to charge inmates for their cost of incarceration as well as charge inmates for medical fees while incarcerated.