Inmate Fees Lawsuit Goes to Kentucky Supreme Court | New
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Supreme Court justices are considering a lawsuit involving Commonwealth jailers who charge inmates for their time behind bars.
For more than 20 years, Kentucky jailers have taken money for reservation fees and daily charges. Prisons often keep the money even if someone is found not guilty or the charges are dropped.
The court case centers on the 2013 arrest of David Jones in Clark County, near Lexington. Attorney Greg Belzley said Jones spent 14 months in Clark County jail because he couldn’t afford to post bail. While locked up, he paid the prison over $ 250 in fees, and he was billed an additional $ 4,000.
The charges against Jones were dismissed and Belzley argued his client should get the money back.
In all previous cases, the lower courts upheld the law on prison costs. So the lawsuit slowly made its way to the Kentucky Supreme Court. On Wednesday, both sides presented their oral arguments.
“We are not challenging the right of a prison to deduct money from an inmate’s account while he is in prison,” Belzley said. “But in the absence of a guilty plea or a guilty verdict by a jury, that money must be returned.”
Belzley said the jailer’s practice of collecting fees goes directly against the intent of the law passed in 2000 to let a judge decide – once the case is over – whether a person could afford to pay. prison costs and how much is owed. And he argued that it is unconstitutional for jailers to keep that money if a person is not convicted.
Jeff Mundo represents the Clark County jailer, and he said arguments about the bill’s wording and its constitutionality have already been debated by other Kentucky judges and rejected. He argued that this gives jailers the power to take these charges as reimbursement for inmate expenses.
“I understand and recognize the inequalities the tribunal faces,” Mundo said. “I understand the plight of Mr. Jones. But it is inherently and equally unfair to lay the blame on the Clark County Jail.”
Mundo said his client made the decision not to continue collecting Jones’s $ 4,000 unpaid bill. He added that there is no law requiring the prison to reimburse these costs, whether a person is ultimately found not guilty or the charges are dropped.
The judges will now examine the case and possibly issue an opinion.
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