In the United States those who have committed crimes and have been punished by being put into prison, emerge after their period of sentence to further retribution.
All but two states have so-called “pay-to-stay” laws that make prisoners pay for their time spent in jail. Critics say it’s an unfair second penalty that hinders rehabilitation by putting former inmates in debt for life.
"Pay-to-stay" laws were put into place in many areas during the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and ’90s. As prison populations swiftly rose, policymakers questioned how to pay for the cost. So, instead of raising taxes, the solution was to shift the cost burden from the state and the taxpayers onto the incarcerated, themselves.
Laws vary from state to state. To collect prison debt by attaching an automatic lien to every inmate, claiming half of any financial windfall they might receive for up to 20 years after they are released from prison, said Dan Barrett, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. That included things like insurance settlements, inheritances and lottery winnings, and even money awarded to inmates in lawsuits over alleged abuse by prison guards.
In Connecticut, onve released, an ex-prisoner will face a debt of $249 for each day behind bars.