| April 22, 2015

Louisville Corrections Department May Hire a Collection Agency

Agency would be used to get back booking fees owed by inmates.

Louisville Metro Corrections in Kentucky wants to recoup over $3 million in booking fees owed to them by inmates. In order to do so, officials are considering hiring a private collection agency to go after the money.

Inmates are charged a $35 fee every time they go to jail. Metro Corrections started this practice in 2003, and since then has accumulated over $3.7 million. However, the jail only collects around 20 percent of all fees it charges, which is why they may follow in the footsteps of other jails across Kentucky and hire an agency.

For some corrections officials there are troubling issues associated with the practice of using a third-party collection agency to recoup these fees. The Director of the Metro Corrections Department, Mark Bolton said in a local interview that teaming with a collection agency poses a “moral and ethical dilemma for me.”

Civil rights leaders believe “booking fees are unconstitutional and unfairly target the mentally ill and homeless.” Even Bolton confessed that the people being charged this fee are usually on the bottom tiers of society. They simply may not have income available to cover these fees without sacrificing things like paying bills or buying necessities for their families.

When someone goes to jail at the Louisville Metro Corrections, any money they have is seized and put toward the $35 fee, or could be used for money owed on prior bookings. Greg Simms, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, says this practice of seizing money from a person not convicted of a crime is unconstitutional. He is considering a class-action lawsuit against Metro.

Even though nearly half of all jails in Kentucky employ collection agencies, Bolton says there’s “no guarantee” that Louisville Metro Corrections will retain one for the purpose of collecting on the $3 million.

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