Bristol County, Ma., Sheriff Thomas Hodgson had no right to impose a controversial $5 a day fee on inmates at the county jail for room and board, as well as additional charges for medical care and other services, said the state’s Supreme Judicial Court this week in a ruling reported by the Boston Globe. In a class action filed by inmates and pretrial detainees, the court unanimously rejected Hodgson's argument that English common law gave him such authority.
The court concluded that only the state legislature has the power to set such fees. Hodgson had touted the program as a way to instill a sense of responsibility among prisoners and to save taxpayers' money. He will ask the legislature for the authority to collect fees. “Look, having inmates come to prison and telling them that you don't need to worry about the costs associated with running the prison is, I don't think, a good message for them,'' said Hodgson, who has been sheriff for more than 12 years. Hodgson will be asked to return about $750,000 to hundreds of current and former prisoners.