St Louis County Department of Justice Services Eliminates $3.4 Million in Inmate Debt

St. Louis County, MO (STL.News) The St. Louis County Department of Justice Services (DJS) has eliminated $3.4 million in inmate debt since it did away with six jail fees in August.

This action has reduced the financial burden for thousands of incarcerated inmates and their families.

“Eliminating a financial burden on people coming out of custody will help them find a job, housing, and a better way of life,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said.  “We appreciate all the hard work going on at Justice Services and the leadership of Lt. Col. Doyle.”

In July, DJS Interim Director Lt. Col Troy Doyle sent a letter to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page requesting that the County eliminate several fees charged to inmates.  The fees, put in place
by the St. Louis County Council in 2009, included:

  •  A $70 booking fee.
  • A $20 bond fee charged to the person who posts bond for an inmate.
  • A $2 fee charged each time an inmate is seen by a nurse.
  • A $5 fee charged each time an inmate is seen by the dentist.
  • A $5 fee for dispensing medication.
  • A $20 medical assessment fee charged each time an individual is incarcerated.

The St. Louis County Council passed an ordinance eliminating these fees in late August.

“Many of the individuals in custody already face significant financial hardships,” Lt. Col. Doyle said.  “It is counter-productive for us to make things more difficult for those reentering the community after their release by saddling them with jail debt.”

In the past year, the jail has reduced its population by 22 percent, Lt. Col. Doyle said.  Many of those individuals are non-violent individuals who are in need of permanent housing, employment, and mental health and drug treatment services.  Those with limited financial resources are more likely to become homeless, re-offend and wind up back in custody.  It currently costs taxpayers about $80 a day to keep someone incarcerated in the County jail.

“Our primary goal is to provide a secure jail environment and help keep our community safe,” Lt. Col. Doyle said.  “But we also want to give inmates the opportunity to successfully re-enter the community.  Wiping clean their jail debts can help facilitate that transition.”

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