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Dave Olson, Published December 30 2009

Clay raises booking charge

Clay County is doubling the fee it charges people booked into jail.

The fee, which has been in place for several years, will rise from $10 to $20 on Jan. 1.

The change, approved by the Clay County Commission on Tuesday, comes in the wake of a change in state law that raised the cap on booking fees from $10 to $25.

Clay County Jail Administrator Julie Savat said while she is satisfied with the fee going to $20, it’s possible the county will move to the maximum at some point in the future.

She said many counties in Minnesota impose booking fees, which she likened to a processing charge.

Clay County’s fee generated $13,000 in 2009.

Savat said the county collects the fee mainly through accounts prisoners establish when they enter the jail.

The accounts are used to pay for things such as snacks and other items, but prisoners can’t use the accounts until they first pay the booking fee.

Some jails in Minnesota charge prisoners for room and board, and Savat said Clay County is looking at implementing a “pay to stay” structure.

She said, however, that such set-ups are labor intensive and the jail doesn’t have a lot of resources right now.

Savat said she is also waiting for the dust to settle on legal challenges to such fee structures.

In a recent decision that will change how some jails operate, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled it is legal for counties to charge prisoners for things like room and board, but the charges cannot begin until after a prisoner has been convicted.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555