NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Getting Jailed And Really Paying For It

July 18, 2000

People in charge of jails throughout the country say rising medical and housing costs are driving them to charge inmates for their mandatory room and board. Some states are even requiring them to by law.

  • Under a new law that takes effect this month, Kentucky's 85 jails will be able to charge $50 a day for room and board, plus a $20 paperwork fee.
  • There will be additional special charges for inmates who sling their food about or damage bunks or plumbing.
  • Jailers note that inmates are covered by federal and state standards for housing, diet and medical care that have grown stronger and more expensive in the past two decades.
  • Local jailers say that jails in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, West Virginia and other states improved their finances and inmate behavior when they began levying fees in recent years.

Drug dealers who frequently arrive at jail with thousands of dollars in their pockets are a lucrative source of revenue for local jailers. But the locality usually will not or cannot collect from those who haven't the means to pay.

Jailhouse costs vary, but the federal government estimates that it costs $34 per day to provide the average room and board -- with medical expenses extra.

Source: Francis X. Clines, "Rooms Available in Gated Community: $20 a Day," New York Times, July 10, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues