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Archive for Friday, November 5, 2010

Kiosk allows Colorado prisoners to post bail with credit or debit card

November 5, 2010

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— A tank of gas: $37.

A night at the bars: $80.

Bail for drunken driving: $750.

Not every trip to jail is planned. For those wild nights, there’s a kiosk at the La Plata County jail where jailbirds can swipe a card and go free.

“It’s just giving people a few more options,” said Capt. Michael Slade with the Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t know why it is, but people just don’t want to enjoy our hospitality if they can avoid it.”

It used to be that prisoners had two options for posting bail: They could call a bail bondsman or arrange for a friend or family member to bring cash or a certified check to the jail.

Now prisoners can use a credit card or debit card to post bail.

People often have a credit or debit card when they are arrested, said Sgt. Holley Ezzell with the Sheriff’s Office.

“We are seeing an increase in inmates coming in and using a credit card to bond themselves out,” Ezzell said.

The kiosk was installed in August to relieve jail deputies from having to deal with large sums of money and allow them to focus more on inmates, Slade said.

Some bails cost $5,000 or more, which is a lot of cash to have on hand. And the more cash in hand, the greater the risk of it being lost or miscounted, Slade said.

Before installing the kiosks, deputies had to make bank runs twice a week. Now they go to the bank once every other week.

The kiosk also takes cash. It can hold up to 1,200 bills and accepts all denominations from $1 to $100 bills. It is owned by EZ Card & Kiosk LLC, which empties the machine twice a week.

Kiosk customers are charged a $10 service fee plus 7 percent of the bail amount. If the bail is more than $2,000, the $10 fee is waived.

By comparison, bondsmen typically keep 10 to 15 percent of the bail.

In addition to collecting bail fees, the kiosk allows inmates or family members to add money to an inmate’s commissary fund. The commissary fund can be used to purchase a variety of items inside the jail, including food, clothing, stationery and hygiene products. The jail provides basics, but extras such as candy bars and shower shoes cost money.

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