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12-18-02: Ex-inmate sues over jail fees
Mercer, Auglaize and Van Wert counties included

The Daily Standard

    A Northeastern Ohio man has filed a class action complaint in U.S. District Court against 37 county sheriffs claiming they violated his rights in levying "cost-recovery" fines and/or "pay-to-stay" fees.
    Among the sheriffs listed in the complaint seeking a jury trial on the matter are Jeff Grey of Mercer County, Larry R. Longsworth of Auglaize County and Stan D. Owens of Van Wert. All the defendants serve within the court's Northern District, Eastern and Western Divisions.
    James Koltiska of Brooklyn and seven fellow plaintiffs identified by the name John Doe claim such fees violate their rights under the Fifth Amendment. Several sheriff's departments throughout the state recently began charging prisoners booking fees and/or billing them for any medical or dental expenses while they were incarcerated.
    Koltiska, who was incarcerated at the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, claims his currency and/or credit were unlawfully taken as a booking fee, confinement fee or a medical/dental expense. He further alleges his funds were taken pursuant to the "cost recovery" and "pay-to-stay" programs implemented and administered by the defendants. The seven John Does had similar experiences during their incarceration, they claim.
    Koltiska, who was charged in connection with felony and misdemeanor offenses, was required to pay a $50 booking fee prior to his release from jail.
    The complaint specifically mentions Cuyahoga County officials, including the administrative judge, treasurer, administrator and commissioners, and their roles in levying the programs and collecting fees.
    The 37 sheriffs, listed as new-party defendants, are identified as promulgators of the programs or individuals who are considering, contemplating or investigating policies of levying "pay-to-stay" and "cost-recovery" fines upon arrestees.
    The average claim of each plaintiff in the class action suit is believed to be such a sum as to prohibit the ability to efficiently and economically litigate their individual claims.
    Koltiska is seeking a jury trial and actual as well as punitive damages.
    The Mercer County Sheriff's Office established a medical co-pay program earlier this year. Prisoners, with the means to do so, are expected to assume financial responsibility for paying their medical-related bills.
    "We do not have a booking fee at the jail at the present time," Grey told The Daily Standard. "However, we have looked into the possibility of establishing one like other sheriff's offices in the state."
     Grey declined to comment on the suit, saying it is a class action and he did not wish to make a statement on behalf of the other 36 sheriffs.


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