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"Consolation and consideration": Orange County Detention Center eliminates ATM fees

The Orange County Detention Center recently decided to remove the required fees from its ATM.

The automated teller machine in the Orange County Detention Center lobby will no longer impose a direct fee on those making cash deposits on behalf of incarcerated individuals. 

According to a press release, the fee’s elimination follows an agreement signed last month between the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Oasis Commissary Services, the management consultant that operates the detention center’s ATM.  

“It’s really important for families that do have the money to put in there that they are able to do that and not get assessed an excessive fee,” Caitlin Fenhagen, Orange County criminal justice resource director, said. “We’re really happy that that can happen, and I hope that it will ease the burden for some of the families and loved ones.”

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said the facility is cashless, meaning all detention officers are prohibited from taking any cash from someone outside and transferring it to someone inside. 

“We used to do that some time ago, but it presents an opportunity for money to be mishandled,” Blackwood said. “We wanted to eliminate that possibility by going cashless with the kiosk.”

When an individual is booked into the detention center, they must use a kiosk inside the booking room to deposit any money they have on their person into an account, according to a press release. The inmate will receive the full value of their initial deposit, and that money can be used to purchase various items and services such as haircuts, snacks, hygiene products and Bibles, according to the press release. 

However, if inmates have little to no money with them when they are being booked, family and friends will typically deposit money into the inmate’s account, according to the press release. 

Alicia Stemper, director of public information and special services for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said the ATM's transaction fee for cash deposits was $3. 

Fenhagen said the conversation about the fee’s elimination arose after the county and the sheriff’s office realized the financial strain this fee can cause on depositing cash on an incarcerated individual’s behalf.

“The people that were being hurt the most by this were the friends and families of those individuals who often are least able to pay any extra transaction fees,” she said. 

UNC law professor Richard Rosen said multiple fees are typically imposed on incarcerated individuals including a $10 per day pretrial jail fee. 

“We have these court costs that, depending on the nature of the case, can be as low as seventy dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, that are imposed upon people who can’t afford to pay them,” Rosen said. “If they found a way to do away with that $3 fee, they should be congratulated.”

Blackwood said Orange County and the Criminal Justice Resource Department approached him and asked if it would be possible for the county to absorb the transaction fees.

“I told them I don’t care how you do it, as long as it’s maintained and managed and the inmate can get their money,” Blackwood said. 

In an email, Deputy County Manager Travis Myren said Orange County is estimating the fees to cost approximately $8,000 annually, which can be adsorbed in the current budget.

“I think that it lessens the burden on the families of the people who are incarcerated because they’re not having to pay for that money,” said Blackwood. “I just say, put yourself in their shoes. If you or your child was in the same circumstance, and you had not committed a crime, you’d probably want some consolation and consideration as well.”


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