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Inmate fees likely to increase at jail

Commissioners signal approval of plan to raise inmate fees from $10 to $25 per day


A Columbia County Jail deputy delivers meals to inmates at the jail. Columbia County will likely increase the fees it charges inmates who are sentenced to jail time.Inmates sentenced to serve time in Columbia County Jail will likely pay higher fees for their incarceration.

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners gave unanimous tentative approval Wednesday of an order that would increase inmate housing fees from $10 a day to $25 a day, in addition to any fees charged for medical care provided.

“It’s been a long time since we actually addressed inmate fees,” Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson told commissioners Wednesday.

DICKERSONDickerson said the current fees have not been reevaluated in at least eight years. The jail can charge inmates up to $60 a day if it can show its costs to house them are that high.

Dickerson said the jail’s costs are higher than $25, but jail staff agree that $25 is a reasonable amount to ask, if the jail wants to recoup any portion of its costs.

“While it is close to the maximum that we can charge ($60), we believe that $25 a day is the most we can expect inmates to be able to reasonably repay,” Dickerson stated by email. He noted that many inmates are indigent or simply don’t pay their bills after they are released. Oftentimes, a debt collection agency must get involved.

The estimated costs to operate the 258-bed jail in 2017 is nearly $5.5 million, according to Dickerson.

The sheriff said breaking down what it costs to hold each inmate is tricky because

food and security expenses decline when divided among

a larger population of in-mates.

Commissioners suggested adding an automatic inflation adjustment to the inmate housing fees. They are expected to review the order again for final approval at an upcoming meeting.