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I-Team Waste Watch: Paying Back Inmates

Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 |
I-Team Waste Watch: Paying Back Inmates story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - On top of law enforcement and housing inmates the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office has for years also been part bank.

When inmates come in, it holds their money in an account and they can use it in the commissary during their stay.

And when they leave, the Sheriff's Office mails them a check for what's left in the account.

"They may have only ten cents left in their account, we're writing a check for ten cents," says Undersheriff Paul Matyas.

Matyas estimates that most the of the checks they send out are for very little money many times just a few cents.

"It seems kind of dumb to write a check for ten cents, but it's not our money, we can't just hang on to it, so here's your check for ten cents," says Matyas.

The sheriff's office sends out a thousand checks every month.

And no matter the amount, they have to pay for the postage, envelopes, and the staff time to do it.

But Matyas tells us they don't want to be handling money at all. They have already installed automated kiosks for friends and relatives to put money electronically into inmate accounts.

And he tells us this week the Sheriff's Office is starting a process to replace checks.

An inmate’s balance will be loaded on a plastic card for them to take when they leave. And the Sheriff's Office hopes that will put an end to all the checks.

"It was old technology, we simply needed to further our upgrades and technology and business practices we started four or five years ago, this is another step in that," says Matyas.

The Sheriff’s Office could save thousands in postage alone and then there is also the savings from hundreds of hours of staff time.
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