What Happens to Your Bills When You Go to Jail?

Unfortunately, your bills do not go away or get put on hold when you go to jail. So, you will still need to find a way to pay them.

Jail sentences are short-term. They are usually one year or shorter. So, this does help when figuring out how to pay bills, since it will not last long.

You do have a few options for getting prepared for your jail stay, and for paying your bills while you are in jail.

There are a couple things you need to do before you begin your sentence. You need to start saving money before your sentence. You also need to cancel any services you do not need during your sentence.

Step One: Prepare for your jail stay.

It may seem obvious, but it is a good idea to start saving money before you go to jail. This will make it much easier to keep up with bills while you are in jail. This may also let you have extra spending cash during your stay.

One tip would be to stop buying things you do not need. You should only buy items that you need to get you through to your sentence, like food or household supplies.

It may also be a good idea to sell some of the things you do not need while you are in jail. This can also help to give you extra spending money on the inside.

One thing that people often forget in general is cancelling services that you do not need or use. When you go to jail, this is especially important. Bills such as rent are important to continue paying, if you want to have a home to return to once you get out.

You can cancel some of your other bills during your jail stay, though. If you will not be using the services, then you do not need to keep them active. For example, you cannot use phone, cable, internet, etc. services in jail. Remember, you can always pick the services back up once you get home.

Now, you can make it through until your jail sentence. But, you still need to be able to pay bills while you are in jail.

Step Two: Pay bills while you are in jail.

Again, your bills do not get put on hold while you are in jail. There are a few ways that you can get them paid. Some possible suggestions include;

  • Getting a joint bank account
  • Getting a Power of Attorney
  • Asking for bill deferrals
  • Earning income while you are in jail

Joint Bank Account

A joint bank account is a checking or savings account that two or more people share. Whoever you list on the account has access to it. So, make sure the person you set this up with is trustworthy and good with money. For example, many people choose to set up accounts with a close friend or relative.

This needs to be set up BEFORE your jail sentence begins. This is because you need to be at the bank to complete the paperwork. Whoever shares the account also needs to be at the bank to complete paperwork when the account is set up.

To set up an account, you have two options. First, you can call your bank and let them know you want to set up a joint bank account. They may schedule an appointment for you and the other person to come in.

You could also go into the bank with the other person and let them know you would like to set up an account. But, this may take a little longer if you do not have an appointment. It depends on how many other customers were there before you.

The other person will have full access to the account, including the ATM card and checks. This makes it easy for them to pay your bills for you. Again, though, make sure this person is trustworthy.

The nice thing is that bank accounts can also be temporary if that is what you would prefer. It would be a good idea to set up the account to terminate, or close, when your sentence is over.

When the account closes, the bank may give you a check for the account balance (how much money was in the account). Or, they may also transfer the money to another bank account that you have. It is a good idea to ask your bank about these options when you set up the joint account.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is when you give someone legal power to act on your behalf. There are a few different types of POA. The one you will need to get for this situation is a limited POA.

A limited POA gives someone the legal power to manage only certain things for you. When you set this up, make sure to put on the paperwork that you only want them to manage finances. They might also be in charge of your estate (belongings) for you while you are in jail.

Getting a Power of Attorney needs to go through a lawyer. It might be a bit more costly than getting a joint bank account, but it is more official and a bit safer.

You can also set a time limit on the POA. So, you can set it up to end when your jail sentence ends. At that time, you will be able take your finances and belongings back over.

Bills Deferrals

A bill deferral is when a company gives you an extension on the due date for the bill. Not every company is able to give you an extension. Some may also only offer it for a certain amount of time. So, this will not always be an option.

But, it cannot hurt to try. Each company may have a different way of setting these up if they are able to do so. The best way to figure out if this is an option is to give customer service a call and explain your situation.

You might also want to think about putting services on hold until your sentence is complete. Sometimes, companies will allow you do put services on hold for a certain amount of time. You can then pick them back up when you finish your sentence.

Income in Jail

The next step after figuring out how to get your bills paid is figuring out how to earn money to pay them. There are a couple ways you can earn money while you are in jail.

Your first option is getting a job in the jail. Most jails have low-paying jobs available to inmates. These jobs could include food service, landscaping and groundskeeping, maintenance, housekeeping, etc.

They are almost always less than minimum wage. So, this might not be your only way to make money, but it is a good idea for extra spending cash. This way, you can use any extra money that you saved for bills instead of spending.

You could also get a job through a work release program. This is a program that lets you go to work during the day and then return to the jail at night. This is not an option for everyone and you need to prove that you are trustworthy in the community.

Work release programs can either be at the job that you were at when you got arrested, or they can be at a new job. The correctional facility has the final say in approving the job. If your old job is not approved, they might be able to help you find a new job.

Not everyone is eligible for work release programs. If you committed a violent or sexual offense, then you might not be able to do the work release program. Past criminal and work history will also play a role in whether you can do the program. Maintaining good behavior at the jail is also important.

You will usually need to reach out about this program yourself. Most jails have offices or people dedicated to setting up the work release programs. It is a good idea to ask for information about this either before your sentences begins or at the beginning of it.


This article has provided information on preparing for your jail sentence. It has also given you advice on managing your bills during your sentence.

Remember to save money before your sentence, so that you can keep paying your bills. Also remember to figure out who will be paying your bills and how they will do it. Last, earning money during your sentence is not necessary, but it will make life a lot easier.


American Bar Association. (n.d.). Power of attorney. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/real_property_trust_estate/resources/estate_planning/power_of_attorney/

DeBenedetti, J. (n.d.). How to pay bills if you are in jail. Retrieved from https://www.sapling.com/6470805/pay-bills-jail

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