Missouri Western District Court of Appeals Rules on Board Bills

This week, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the practice of collecting board bills for jail time is illegal. "Board bills" are charges for room and board that people charged with crimes in the rural areas are billed for jail time served both before trial and after conviction. The charges are generally around $50 a day. When defendants don't pay the bill, they are brought before the judge who tries to collect the charges due. Defendants are scheduled to appear at a payment review hearing every month, even years after they have pleaded guilty and served their time.

The court wrote that "nothing in [state law] provides specific authorization for the taxation of an unpaid board bill as a court cost." This means that judges in Missouri can no longer threaten defendants with jail time if they can't afford to pay the board bills issued to them by the sheriff. If the ruling stands, it would end a debtors' prison scheme common in rural areas of the state.

December 19, 2018 - 1:02pm

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