And finally… skimming the cream

And finally... skimming the cream

A police department is being sued after making jail inmates pay for ice cream, candyfloss and laser tag for staff and their families.

Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Department in Waterloo, Iowa is among US police departments which controversially bill arrestees for the cost of their stay in jail.

Before release, inmates are required to sign a “confession of judgment” agreeing to pay room and board at a rate of $70 per day plus other “administrative fees”.

A lawsuit filed by two NGOs — Public Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa — alleges that these fees were used, among other things, to fund a shooting range for the enjoyment of department employees and families, including rentals of ice cream and cotton candy machines and laser tag.

Charles Moore, staff attorney for Public Justice’s debtors’ prison project, said: “In Black Hawk County, the sheriff decides who owes money and how much they owe without any court ever reviewing those decisions. He acts as the judge, jury, and debt collector. It’s a classic conflict of interest.”

The lawsuit asks the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Eastern Division to declare the practice of collecting money unconstitutional as a violation of due process.

It argues this is because it wrongly deprives someone of their property and because it is a conflict of interest for the sheriff’s office to collect fees that it then can spend however it likes.

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