The Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail is moving toward eliminating their $1 per day “keep fee”, with a vote scheduled for March 14th. Until now, Albemarle has charged inmates a $1 per day toward the jail’s budget, just like the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Jail. This $1 comes from their “canteen” fund which is an account toward which friends, families, and churches donate money so the inmate has access to commissary goods such as additional food and clothing beyond what the jail provides. The canteen fund is also used to make phone calls or for copays for their medical care while incarcerated. Col. Martin Kumer, superintendent of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, stated that this is a, “humanitarian issue…the $1 is not coming from the inmate but from friends, family, churches, and nonprofits that are trying to make a difference and help them out”. These outside individuals, who were not incarcerated themselves, are bearing the burden of this costly fee.
Kumer believes that by cutting the $1 a day fee, families will be more likely to donate money to the canteen fund because they know it will be used how the inmate intended and not to pay for the keep fee. Additionally, he believes that the increase in donations to canteen funds will encourage inmates to spend more on the commissary and phone system and the jail will make more money off of the increased sales at the commissary; this tactic will make up for the lost revenue from the keep fee.
The Albemarle County Sheriff, Chip Harding, said, “So a person can come into jail and if he’s poor and his family is poor, he can’t use the phone because he can’t pay that $1 a day fee. But if he’s rich, he can use the phone all day with no problem because he’s got the money? I know how I’m going to vote”.
Read more about the Albermarle jail board’s decision from the Daily Progress.