Did you know that some counties in Michigan charge inmates for their stay in our jails?  I did not.

The Detroit Free Press recently published an article from the Bridge Magazine that informed us that counties in Michigan, i.e. Newayo County Jail, Macomb County, Ottawa County and Kent County, charge their inmates for the cost of their medical care, haircuts, personal care kits.

Apparently Newaygo County charges their inmates $30 a day for the above mentioned cost after their jail time has ended and if they do not pay those charges are handed off to a collection agency.  Macomb County charges their convicted jail inmates $45 a day, Ottawa County charges their inmates approximately $25 a day and Kent County charges their inmates $21 a day.

Macomb County Sheriff Tony Wickersham was quoted in the article stating:

It’s a good program, we still need to hold (inmates) accountable. Those individuals who are sentenced to the county jail have to pay their fair share.

A critic of this program such Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York-based nonpartisan policy institute was quoted in the article stating:

There are a million collateral consequences. It can affect whether you can buy a car or rent an apartment. The last thing we should be doing is putting up barriers to getting back into society.  You are criminalizing poverty, is what you are doing.

No Ms. Eisen we are “criminalizing” people who commit crimes.  The fact that they might be poor has nothing to do in the eyes of the law, does it.

I can certainly understand Ms. Eisen’s concerns but I also understand that we need to hold inmates accountable.  This brings up many question such as: is incarcerating them enough, should we not charge them, how would they be able to pay for that bill?

Another fun fact according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Michigan became the first state to institute a correctional fee when it enacted legislation in 1846 authorizing counties to charge inmates for medical care.  Also by 2004, an estimated one-third of county jails in the U.S. were charging daily housing fees.  Wow, why have we not heard about this before?

In some of these counties if you work during your stay the county will deduct some of the cost incurred by you.  Apparently many counties find it difficult to persuade these inmates to work while they are incarcerated and this is a good incentive to get them to actually do something during their stay.

This is a difficult issue due to the fact that many of the people incarcerated are there because they were not working legitimate jobs, have drug or alcohol issues or are dealing with mental problems.  Do we really expect that they will live up to their obligation to pay for some of their cost while incarcerated since they could not live up to their responsibility to be a law abiding citizen?

Is being incarcerated enough punishment and if so we as law abiding citizens should bare the full cost of their incarceration?

Let’s talk about this today on The Live with Renk Show which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon. To let me know your thoughts during the show please call (269) 441-9595