Some US states bill people held in their jails, even if all charges are later dismissed
A widespread practice in the US known as “pay to stay” charges jail inmates a daily fee while they are incarcerated.
These fees — which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars — get charged at every step of the system, from the courtroom, to jail, to probation. Defendants and offenders pay for their own arrest warrants, their court-ordered drug and alcohol-abuse treatment and to have their DNA samples collected.
Courts usually offer alternatives to paying fees, like doing community service. But sometimes there’s a cost with that, too.
When someone fails to keep up with these payments, he has violated probation. There may be more fees and penalties. In some states, people who don’t pay can lose their driver’s license or benefits like food stamps. Sometimes felons have to pay before they get back their right to vote.
Other states require people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.
Release debit cards are also a problem. Prisoners are often given money when they leave jail. It could be the cash they came in with, money they earned at a prison job or funds deposited by friends or relatives. Recently, prepaid debit cards with outrageous fees have replaced cash and checks as the way to return these funds to prisoners.