You have requested my opinion as to whether O.C.G.A. § 15-21-90 et seq. prohibits the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners from reducing the city of Moultrie’s inmate housing bill in an amount equivalent to the ten percent add on monies paid to the county pursuant to the statute. It is my opinion that O.C.G.A. § 15-21-90 does not speak to negotiations between local governments regarding inmate-housing costs and thus, does not prohibit such a reduction in the city’s bill.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 15-21-90 et seq. provides that in every case where the city imposes a fine “for any offense against a criminal or traffic law of this state or any ordinance of a political subdivision thereof, there shall be imposed as an additional penalty a sum equal to 10 percent of the original fine.” O.C.G.A. § 15-21-93(a)(1). This ten percent additional penalty also applies to the posting of bail or bond in any criminal or traffic case. O.C.G.A. § 15-21- 93(a)(2). The additional money collected by the city pursuant to this Code Section then “shall be

paid over to the governing authority of the county” or “in the case of a municipality which has contracted for jail services, to the governing authority of the county with which the municipality has contracted.” O.C.G.A. § 15-21-94(a). Failure to pay these sums constitutes a misdemeanor. O.C.G.A. § 15-21-94(b).

The county must then deposit these funds into a special account called the “county jail fund.” O.C.G.A. § 15-21-94(a). These sums are to be used “solely and exclusively for constructing, operating, and staffing county jails, county correctional institutions, and detention facilities of the county.” O.C.G.A. § 15-21-95.

In order to interpret Section 15-21-90 et seq. properly, we must look diligently to the intent of the General Assembly, “keeping in view at all times the old law, the evil, and the remedy.” O.C.G.A. § 1-3-1(a). In addition, we must apply to all words their ordinary significance, except when dealing with “words of art or words connected with a particular trade or subject matter.” O.C.G.A. § 1-3-1(b).

There is no question that under this statute the city of Moultrie must pay the ten percent add on money collected to Colquitt County. Further, it is clear from the plain language of the statute that the county is mandated to use these funds specifically towards “constructing, operating, and staffing” of its detention facilities. However, there is nothing in the statute that addresses how much money the county may charge to the city for inmate housing. Assuming that the county and city are not intending to abrogate the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 15-21-90 et seq., this is an intergovernmental contract issue between the two parties authorized to contract under Ga. Const., Art. IX, Sec. III, Para. I.

Based on the foregoing, it is my unofficial opinion that O.C.G.A. § 15-21-90 does not prohibit a county from considering a reduction on a city’s inmate housing bill in the amount equivalent to the ten percent add on monies paid to the county pursuant to the statute.

Prepared by:

Assistant Attorney General