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PLN quoted in article re charging jail prisoners cost of incarceration

Fox News, Jan. 1, 2009.
PLN quoted in article re charging jail prisoners cost of incarceration - Fox News 2009

Jails Charging Inmates
For Stays

Updated: Sunday, 07 Jun 2009, 5:35 PM PDT
Published : Sunday, 07 Jun 2009, 2:16 PM PDT

From MyFox National Reports

(MYFOX NATIONAL) - While it might be cheaper than a real hotel room, a jail cell wouldn't be a traveler's first choice. But across the country, jails are starting to charge inmates for their stays.

In Douglas County, Ore., lockup fees run $20 a night. Maricopa County, Ariz., charges its inmates $1.25 a day for meals. And Springfield, Ore., is building a new $10 million, 100-bed jail that will charge $60 a night for an 8-by-8 cell with a bunk bed and three square meals.

"It all boils down to, why is it right for the taxpaying citizen to foot the entire bill? These people make choices out there," said Dwes Hutson of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. So far Douglas County has recouped nearly $200,000, less than 10 percent of their costs.

Critics say it's just pointless politics. "They're publicity stunts," said Paul Wright of Prison Legal News. "They recoup very little money in the real world, but it makes politicians tough on crime, and it gives the illusion to the public that they're, quote, doing something."

Public defender Greg Hazarabedian added that it's bad policy to take money out of the pockets of people already down on their luck.

"Tacking on more financial burdens on these populations is just not going to help these people succeed, and if they don't succeed we all pay the price," he said.

Springfield Police Chief Jerry Smith disagreed. "I don't buy that. If they're out there able to buy their booze and their drugs, they can find the money to pay."

Jails are also beginning to demand a $10 copay for medical and dental care, and prices are going up at prison commissaries where inmates buy cigarettes and magazines. There are limits, however -- a plan to charge Iowa inmates for toilet paper got flushed.