To help collect more than $300,000 in inmate debt, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office is turning to the Internet.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin plans to roll out Pay My Jailer, a Web-based collection management system, next week in an attempt to retrieve more than $311,000. The debt, which covers items including booking fees, commissary charges and medical expenses, dates back a decade, Nowlin said.
“The sheriff’s office will pay up front to cover these costs, and the inmates are supposed to reimburse us,” Nowlin said.
Last spring, during his first year as sheriff, Nowlin dispatched a collections clerk to determine the organization’s total inmate debt. Staff worked to compile the data for nearly nine months, he said.
Nowlin said he visited with a Pay My Jailer vendor at last week’s winter meeting of the Colorado Sheriff’s Association. More than a dozen county jails across Colorado use the service, according to the company’s website.
Jennifer Dinsmore, chief administrative officer for the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that the agency signed up to use the online service in 2014, but the department’s record management system wasn’t compatible, she said.
“Until something changes, we won’t be working with them,” Dinsmore said of Pay My Jailer.
Based in Kentucky, Pay My Jailer is one of several services offered by Advent Financial Services free of charge to law enforcement agencies. No software has to be purchased or installed.
The third-party firm profits by charging the delinquent inmate for using the payment service, and according to the company’s website, collections – 100 percent of which is returned to the sheriff’s office – increase by more than a third.
“Pay My Jailer spends all the time going after the delinquent bills like a collection agency,” Nowlin said, “and all of the money comes back to the taxpayers.”
Attempts to reach other Colorado law enforcement agencies that reportedly utilize Pay My Jailor for comment were unsuccessful.
In other news, Nowlin informed Montezuma County commissioners this week that his office has updated and adopted 157 new policies. Included on 689 pages, the revised standards comprise best practices from both state and federal levels, Nowlin said.
“These new guidelines bring this agency up to the professional standards that are required,” Nowlin told The Journal.
Employees have 30 days to review the policies, which cover multiple topics including arrests, finances and investigations. Nowlin said his administration is now working to revamp a supplemental detention policy.
To complement the updated agency standards, Nowlin requires deputies and jailors to complete daily training bulletins, which serve to brief employees on policy procedures. Nowlin said he collects data on the testing to monitor each employee’s understanding of department guidelines.
“We’re making great strides,” Nowlin said.