Salt Lake County Jail temporarily stops charging inmates

Published: Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:00 p.m. MDT

The Salt Lake County Jail has temporarily stopped its Pay for Stay program.

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SOUTH SALT LAKE — The Salt Lake County Jail has temporarily stopped its Pay for Stay program following the footsteps of the Davis County Jail.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said even though he believes the jail is properly following state statute, he ordered that the practice of charging certain inmates for each day they're housed in the jail be stopped out of an abundance of caution until the situation in Davis County can be sorted out.

"We did it as a precautionary basis until the discussions are concluded about Davis County. But ours is an entirely different approach," Winder said. "When we implemented our policy ... we did so with the direct support and advice of the district attorney's office. We're aware of the statutory prohibitions and opportunities, so we believe we had legal cause to do that."

In 2007, Utah lawmakers gave local jails the authority to charge inmates for their incarceration time under certain conditions in what's now called the Pay for Stay program. Several adult detention facilities in the state charge inmates for their housing.

The Davis County Jail discontinued its Pay for Stay program earlier this month following a ruling by 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin. The judge said the Davis County Sheriff's Office was overstepping its authority. The sheriff's office doesn't believe it was doing anything wrong.

At the Salt Lake County Jail, only inmates sent to the jail from justice court have been charged. If the inmate was sentenced to jail by a state court or was being held for U.S. marshals or immigration officials, there was no charge.

But the Salt Lake County Jail does not have any power to go out and collect that money if someone decides not to pay. That inmate, however, will have a negative balance on their jail account if they ever return to jail. But even then, Winder said the jail will not leave an incarcerated person with no money.

"We're dealing with attorneys that have given us advice to move in a direction. I now have a judge that has said this is 'probably problematic' under a legal argument that I'm not privy to. Until we can identify what that is, I think it's wise to (stop the program)," the sheriff said.

"We try not to do things here that are questionable legally. We like to be on solid ground."

The Salt Lake County Jail's Pay for Stay program generates about $200,000 a year.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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