Jail launches new system to manage inmates' money

Sedgwick County jail officials have unveiled a new money management system that will automate the way inmate money is handled.

"Basically it's a jail ATM," said Sheriff Robert Hinshaw. "It will accept debit cards, credit cards or cash."

Every year, Hinshaw said, the jail processes $1.8 million in cash for inmates. He said inmates can spend up to $40 a week on commissary items, such as snacks and underwear.

Under the existing system, Hinshaw said, relatives of inmates who want to add money to a jail account must buy a money order, then mail it or take it to the jail.

Under the new system, which will go into operation Feb. 21, relatives will be able to take a debit or credit card to the jail lobby, feed the card into the ATM machine, then tell the machine how much they want transferred to the inmate's account.

Those using debit or credit cards will be assessed a fee equal to 10 percent of the amount being deposited. The minimum fee will be $2.50.

Hinshaw said the cost to deposit money won't be significantly higher than it is now. Money orders typically cost 60 cents to $1.05, he said.

Hinshaw said the new system also will allow relatives to deposit money online by visiting www.jailatm.com.

Hinshaw said the system will be used when inmates are booked into jail. Instead of counting the inmate's money by hand, he said, booking officers will feed the money into a machine that counts it, credits it to the inmate's account and prints a receipt.

Hinshaw said the ATM fees will cover the cost of the system.