Utah judge orders a stop to jail’s ‘Pay For Stay’ collection methods

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DAVIS COUNTY -- Utah law allows county jails to charge inmates for restitution, and since the law was passed in 2007, the Davis County Sheriff's Office has been charging inmates $10 a day during their incarceration.

But, have they been going about this illegally?

The Davis County Jail has been doing this for the past seven years, and it wasn't until 2013 that questions surrounding the Pay For Stay program came into question. A judge stated that he has received numerous letters from inmates stating that money was being taken from their commissary accounts.

Vickie Hinze has a son serving time in the Davis County Jail.

"If I put money in for my son to buy food, he won't get it,” she said. “It'll go to his bill, which frustrates me because when I specify where it goes that's where it should go."

Another person who didn't want to be identified said: "I wasn't told anything about the Pay For Stay. I put over $200 in for the commissary, and then after the fact I was told that nothing was used towards the commissary, it was a Pay For Stay."

Since 2007, the Davis County Sheriff's office has been charging inmates $10 a day for the duration of their incarceration, with some of that money coming out of the inmate's commissary account, which a judge has now ordered them to stop doing.

Utah Representative Paul Ray, R-District 13, said, "What it comes down to is the judge is interpreting the law differently than how the legislature has written it."

According to the Davis County Attorney, the Sheriff's Office has been breaking the law.

According to emails from Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings: "Prior to collection, there must be a restitution claim, a court order, and a judgment. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. If there is non-compliance, there is no legitimate way to collect it. The Keith Major pre-sentencing pre-court-ordered-restitution accounting enema of an inmate's account is not legal."

Rawlings goes on to explain that the Davis County Sheriff's Office cannot collect on Pay For Stay until a claim has been submitted for restitution, after sentencing, based on the court determined sum, and after the primary victim and others have been paid first.

Rep. Ray stands behind the county's collection methods, claiming the $10 a day restitution from inmates has significantly reduced the taxpayer burden.

He said: "They're giving them money to buy treats with, to buy commissaries, all these extras in the jail, and the county is saying, ‘No, wait a minute. You have a debt to society that you're gonna pay before you buy those Twinkies.’”

A response from the Davis County Sheriff's Office states, "The Davis County Sheriff's Office will comply with Judge Allphin's order, but is deeply concerned with the suggestion to the public that it has violated the law. The policies in place by the Davis County Sheriff's Office are identical to policies used by many other jails in the State of Utah."

Rep. Ray said Davis County has the highest collection rate in the state. In 2013, the Davis County Sheriff's Office collected $369,000 through the Pay For Stay program. Ray also said he's already opened up a bill file to modify the law and reduce ambiguity during the next legislative session.

20 comments

  • Aaron

    maybe they should investigate Salt Lake County Adult Detention Center they charged $44.00 a day for pay for stay and if you owe them money they will take it from your commissary money

  • utah

    How corrupt is utah. . The goverment and CEO`s just want their money and the stupid legislators have decided its ok to rob criminals because they are bad. And the utah citizens are so lazy and so stupid you wont stop it.
    Why dont you ask where the money goes to that they take from helpless inmates? Where is the money really going to? Is it going to restitution or is it just a tax on prisoners that can not vote? And if there is any work done by the prisoners they are payed less than minimum wage. So they are lower than slaves. But the lazy citizens say they are criminals and deserve it.
    Where is the criminals tax going to?

    • Karen Smith

      I am wondering if the tax payers in Davis County have had their taxes reduced since they aren’t paying as much to house jail prisoners. I haven’t seen any reduction in my counties taxes and the jail charges $40.00 a day

    • Breanne

      Inmates are only charged $40 a day when serving a sentenced justice commitment and they are only billed upon release. When commissary money is left on the prisoners’ account when they come back to jail, 50% of that money goes towards their outstanding debt. Someone has to pay their bill for staying there and if the state doesn’t pay for justice jurisdictions, then who else is left to pay it? The person serving the time. Last time I checked nothing is free. Ignorance never gets anyone anywhere.

    • Bob

      What is corrupt about expecting criminals to be held financially responsible for the costs associated with their crimes. Someone has to pay for the cost to feed and house them. Who better to pay than the individual who chose to commit the crime?

    • Bob

      Yes, inmates are treated so terrible……they get 3 meals a day and a bed to sleep on, clean clothes, heating and air conditioning, ice cream, junk food “commissary”, tv, movies, medical treatment for a far lesser price than law abiding citizens..heaven forbid the jails help recoup these costs that are laid on the taxpayers!

  • Jennifer Rhoades

    This is how Utah works.. It’s not ‘innocent till proven guilty’ . It’s Guilty till paid in full.

  • Jazzy Roberts

    Ive seen it happen alot and they finaly do somethig about it now….. okay letsjust kick thecriminals while there already down as well as not follow the process…whos the real ccriminals? Isnt laundering illegal?

  • Debi

    It’s $40.00 a day in Cache County. Isn’t part of going to jail that you can’t follow the rules or pay the fines so your sentence is to have jail time in lieu of the fines, etc. so why are they being charged twice..? Also, who owns the jail in Cache County?

  • mep

    I agree with it, especially the once in there for robbery, they wanted to steal, but now they don’t want to pay for what they have done? If they got off and weren’t arrested they would have spent that money and most likely tried to rob another place. Why should we have to pay money for the crimes they commit out of our tax dollars… The people saying no they don’t agree with the pay for stay program are most likely the people that have committed crimes and were in jail and had to pay to stay. I say keep it rolling!!

  • Roger Mcgough

    How about just not going to jail, why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for your stupidity!!!

  • Mark Snuff

    Who cares what happens to inmates’ money. Don’t like it? Then don’t break the law. I’m tired or carreer crimanals thinking prison is a paid vacation from the real world. How about we make jail so unbearable, people actually want to avoid it.

    • Trish Ramirez

      See, Mark, it is YOUR attitude that has turned this nation into a police state. There are so many ridiculous laws on the books that it is virtually impossible for the average citizen to go through their day without breaking at least one. People are being used to fund the state by way of fines for breaking arbitrary laws. Every movement and thought and decision and action does not need to be legislated. American citizens shouldn’t be fined for every decision they make, everything they own, every thought they have.

      People are incarcerated for petty crimes, for refusing to toe the ridiculous mormon line that has been drawn in this state. Fines and fees are everywhere. You practically pay to breathe. Then if you don’t like it and voice your dissent, you are jailed and fined for your trouble.

      It’s ridiculous.

      Too many rules, too many laws, too much taking of private money for public use.

      We have created a prison state and a prison system of quasi legal slavery in which inmates work for pennies an hour so the state and even private corporations can profit even more from the labors of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.

      It’s all about money. How the state can take your money to make itself richer. That is all. You are only as valued as the amount of green you contribute to the bottom line. The system is faulty and it should be broken and reset. There is no such thing as justice or equality when the 98% are scraping and slaving and being jailed and taken for every penny they earn to keep the top 2% afloat. It’s all about money. Your government, your religion, your legislative processes. It’s ugly and profane.

    • Ann

      Obviously you haven’t had anyone you care about in jail before! Never say never because you just might and then you might have a heart for people there. I’m not condoning what the inmates do to get there. I agree that they need to pay their debt, not friends and family coming to give them some commissary money. They can’t get shampoo or soap without commissary money. It’s not all about treats and a great vacation in there. There are many reasons people end up going there. There are many there who are mentally ill. I just heard this morning on the news that Utah prison is the largest mental institution in the country. Sad

  • Nathan B

    I spent 25 days n jail for me being stupid. And guess what the money that is put in to Commisary is used to not only buy snacks and Treats, But to buy Shampoo and Soap,, Tooth Brushes and Toothpaste. Combs. Things of that nature. Things that most of us take for granted. So yes this practice needs to be stopped, this is keeping inmates from being able to take care of the basic Hygiene.

  • Kris Ashdown

    When you are admitted to jail, they give you the basic hygiene pack. I have also heard that if you are found innocent then they don’t charge you. I’m with Mark, if you don’t like it then don’t break the law! There was one gal that called the jail to see which doctor was there so she knew that her medical issue would be taken care of if she turned herself in! Now that is taking advantage of the system!!

  • Nathan B

    Yes you do, But the Basic hygiene pack they give you is very little. The little Travel size Toothpaste tubes, and a small bottle of shampoo, that last 3 to 4 days at max, everything else has to be paid for with the funds in Commisary. I can see why that lady did that, When I was in Jail I had been in a Serious Car accident prior ro being arrested on an old warrant, I repeatedly asked to be checked out by a Nurse or Doctor, and guess what my asking for help fell on Deaf ears. I ended up having to have surgery after I was released. Jails aren’t perfect but when someone says they are in pain and need to be seen, they should be seen. Not ignored.

  • Becky

    This article is not saying that the inmates don’t ever have to pay it. It is saying that if you have someone who tries to put money on your books because they want you to have basic necessities, paper, pencil and postage to mail a letter maybe to send a hand drawn card for a child’s birthday who is missing you, or money to call them or even if they want you to be able to have a candy bar or shoes that aren’t jelly sandals that they can’t automatically take it to pay your bill. Those people in jail made a mistake but someone loves them and wants them to have a little bit of some comfort. This punishes those people who want to be nice because they can’t.

  • citizen

    Some of these comments are ignorant, indigent inmates get basic supplies, not just hygiene. Indigent inmates are constitutionally entitled to basic hygiene supplies. We need to acknowledge the fact that taxpayers pay somewhere in the neighborhood of 30k a year for an incarcerated inmate. So where does the money go? To house the inmates! To all of the things inmates get whether they are entitled to it or not: treatment programs, medical, food, staff to supervise, the list goes on and on. Charging a daily amount seems reasonable IMO.

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