Pay-for-Stay Prisons leave Crippling Debt


Ohio is only one of many states in the US that has a pay-for-stay program in place for prisoners doing jail time, in order to offset the taxpayer expense.

Dale Osborne, an administrator in one of the 40 jails that have this policy, however admits that the only benefit it to the taxpayer. “It offsets the expenses that the taxpayers are required to have. The more revenue I can generate within a facility, the less the taxpayers have to pay,” he said, adding that “If we lost the ability to have a pay-for-stay program here I’m not going to have any huge heartache over the loss of it.”

But for prisoners trying to start a new life after release, the story is different. David Mahoney, one such prisoner was left with a $21,000 debt. He has since turned a new leaf and cleaned up his act, but still struggles to pay for the fees that accumulated during his stay in prison. “Obviously, it’s my fault I’m in the situation I am in. I’m trying to start over. People that end up in jail are usually down on their luck anyway. They’re going through some trials and tribulations in life. Why focus on the people who are already struggling?” he said.


According to an ACLU report, the pay for stay policy is being implemented across various institutions in the United States. The BBC has also reported the increasing debt of $10 billion owed across the nation, which can stem from the per night charge of a prisoner incarcerated.

The fees can start at $1 per day up to $66 per day, depending on where you are arrested and jailed. For petty crimes, a once off charge can still lead to a crippling debt that will affect not only the arrested person, but also their families.

Mike Brickner, the ACLU’s group senior policy director has made comment of the devastation impact on all those involved. “We’re hearing from people who are claiming this is going on their credit scores and preventing them from doing all sorts of things,” says Brickner. “Pay-to-stay jail fees devastate prisoners and their families.”

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    • About time… Why should law abiding citizens have to pay for other peoples screw up? What’s that old saying? If you can’t to the time… Or pay for your stay in jail…. Don’t do the crime!

      • it’s only about trying to keep the revolving door moving in circles. this way you don’t need to commit a crime to go back, it’s the new debtors prison.

  1. This is the most ridiculous system ever invented, when you put a person in jail he will come out with a massive debt and barely any chances of getting a job, essentially forcing them to resort to criminal activity to pay off the debt.
    But i suppose you can’t teach reason to some people.


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