Ingham County Sheriff wants to reduce bills sent for time spent in jail

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Brandon Howell

Ingham County jail in Mason, Michigan.

Lansing, Mich. — Ingham’s top jailer wants to reduce the $50-a-day bill that inmates are charged when they get out of jail to $8. County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said the charges drag down people who are trying to get back on their feet—and that hardly anyone pays it, anyway.

Sheriff Wriggelsworth showed the Law and Courts committee how much inmates were charged for Pay for Stay. He said the inmates are charged $50 a day, which by the end of a stay could be thousands of dollars.

He wants to cut the amount they are charged to $8 a day.

“It only costs $3 a day to feed them,” Wriggelsworth said.

Wriggelsworth said he wants to make the change to help inmates lower their debt to the jail considerably when they get out, but also recoup money for the jail.

The jail made back only a one-half of one percent over the past 14 years because inmates did not have the funds to pay back the jail, which is collected through an honor system.

He does not want to pursue debts through a collection agency or place liens on property because, he said, “the vast majority of those don’t pay, because there is no way for them to pay.” He doesn’t want to put the pressure on people already struggling to return to society.

Commissioner Randy Shafter said that back in the eighties the county collected more aggressively.

“You should be paying for it,” he said.

Koenig said that maybe the reason they decided not to pursue collecting the fees more aggressively was because the Board of Commissioners recognized how frail the population was.

Wriggelsworth said he agreed and that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

He said that lowering the cost of the Pay for Stay would give inmates the opportunity to manage the bill and actually pay. Koenig and the sheriff agreed, saying that it was going to become within the realm of reality. Wriggelsworth said the difference between a charge for $150 and thousands of dollars is vast.

“The more palatable we make this, the more return we’ll get,” he said.

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