Lexington's Urban County Council voted Thursday night to increase the amount Fayette County jail inmates pay for medical care and prescription medicine, and to increase booking fees at the jail.
The co-pay for medical care will rise from $5 to $15. An inmate will be required to pay for prescription medication if the total is $14.99 or less, and to pay $15 if the prescription costs more than $14.99 — an increase from the current $2.50 co-pay.
Booking fees will go from $20 to $35.
The vote was 10-4. Council members Steve Kay, Diane Lawless, Julian Beard and Chris Ford voted "no." KC Crosbie was absent.
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Rodney Ballard, director of the Division of Community Corrections, said increasing the booking fee will offset costs associated with taking a person into custody. Increasing the fee by $15 could bring in as much as an additional $200,000 a year.
Money from booking fees and medical co-pays goes into the city's general fund to help offset operating the institution, Ballard said.
In fiscal year 2012, the detention center collected about $232,000 in booking fees, Ballard said. If the jail books the same number of people in fiscal year 2013, booking fees will total $406,000, he said.
The jail collected $9,000 in medical co-payments in fiscal year 2012. Under the increase co-payments, the jail would have collected $27,000.
The General Assembly in 2000 required that cities or counties pass laws setting jail fees. "The consensus among members of both the House and Senate was if inmates have got money for candy bars and snacks and those non-essential food items, then they ought to help offset some of the costs to the counties for running the institutions and providing medical care," Ballard said.
At Thursday's meeting, several people spoke against increasing the fees. Cory Dunn, who said he had been an inmate in the Fayette County jail, said the ordinance will not affect the criminal — "It is going to affect families of the criminal," many of whom are poor, he said.
Booking fees in a few other Kentucky counties by comparison are: $20 Boone County, $30 Hopkins County, $35 Kenton County, $70, Warren County, $35 Jefferson County. In addition, some counties charge per diem fees. A few of these are $20 in Boone County, $10 in Kenton County, $30 in Warren County. Jefferson and Fayette counties do not have per diem charges.
Ballard told council that a negative balance in an inmate's account would not keep the person from getting medical care or from being released when they had served their time.
The city will make no attempt to collect bills that go unpaid. An unpaid balance will not affect the inmate's credit rating, and inmates' families will not be billed.
"We'll collect what we can collect," Ballard said.
If an inmate has a negative balance, the jail can access his cash in several ways allowed under state law.
The Fayette County Detention Center will soon install an electronic banking system with kiosks at the jail. When a person is booked, cash in his wallet will be put into a kiosk. The person will receive a receipt.
If that person was in jail previously and left owing money, the electronic bank will take money deposited and apply it toward the balance.
Also, the jail gets payment when a family member deposits money into an inmate's jail account. For example, if an inmate owes $100 on a jail account and a family member deposits $50, the jail applies the whole deposit against the balance of what is owed, Ballard said.
When the new ordinance takes effect, Ballard said he intends to change the policy so that half of the money deposited in an inmate's account will be applied against an inmate's balance owed to the jail; the other half will go into the inmate's jail account to buy items such as socks, underwear and snacks at the jail commissary.