TOPEKA — Earlier this month, Gov. Laura Kelly approved a bill that would amend a civil imprisonment statute regarding the cost of keeping a civil prisoner in a county jail. Under current Kansas law, the amount a county can be reimbursed for keeping a defendant in a civil case imprisoned is $1.50 per day.

House Bill 2097 would update that statue by providing a new method to calculate the costs of keeping civil prisoners in county jails. By raising the statutory to an appropriate and reasonable amount, counties can avoid placing financial burdens on their budget.

According to Natalie Scott, assistant revisor of statutes, the bill determines that the cost to keep civil prisoners will be equivalent to the cost that a county requires to maintain other prisoners. The rate will vary, depending on the county.

During committee meetings, Jay Hall, legislative policy director and general counsel of the Kansas Association of Counties, testified in support of the bill. He said the cost set in the statute has been in place for more than half a century with no adjustments.

“The county jail is not a money-making enterprise, but it is fiscally irresponsible to charge an

amount so low that it does not cover the cost of housing a person in the facility,” Hall said. “Simply put, $1.50 does not do this.”

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the Kansas Association of Counties reported that HB 2097 would create major increases in revenue to Kansas county jails. According to the report, most counties have higher rates than $1.50 to retain prisoners. The actual fiscal impact would be on a county-to-county basis.

Before Kelly signed and approved the bill, the House passed the bill 116-1. The Senate unanimously passed it 39-0 on the consent calendar.  

HB 2097 will be in effect on July 1, 2019, after publication in the statute book.

Angel Tran is a University of Kansas senior from Wichita majoring in journalism.

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