Should inmates have to pay the county back for taxpayer money spent on their jail time? This week, Riverside County supervisors unanimously voted yes.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, Supervisor Jeff Stone called jails "prison hotels," costing an average of $142.42 a day.
According to the Press-Enterprise, he said "I think we're blazing a new trail here. In these very challenging economic times, I believe this can be a source of revenue. I believe this can return 3 to 5 million (dollars) a year during these very challenging economic times."
Supervisor Stone told the Huffington Post, "Inmates will be charged $140 for each day in jail and for drug testing, medical care and parol costs." He explained that a defendent who uses a public defender will also be charged for the attorney fees if he is found to have equity, such as a property. "If the parolee does not have liquid funds to pay, the County will put a lien against the property to receive payment when the property is sold. The County will do the same on the parolee's parents' property if that's the only way to get the money."
County Counsel Pamela Walls, however, wrote in a memo to the supervisors that it will be hard to collect reimbursements because "those defendants who are convicted of crimes and incarcerated typically have limited funds." Furthermore, she argues that because defendants will have to pay victim restitution, fines and penalties first, few will have money left to cover jail time costs.
And yet, Riverside County Superior Court Executive Officer Sherri Carter said the county has already successfully increased collections in 2009-2010 by $1 million. In a letter to the supervisors, Carter wrote, "I am confident this trend will continue, and look forward to future positive reports to the county."
Supervisor Stone told HuffPost LA that he expects the charges to go into effect December 1. He added, "Of course, if a defendant is found innocent, he will not be charged for the time he served."