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Criminals Pay to Stay…in Riverside Jails

Who says crime doesn’t pay? Not Riverside County, whose board of supervisors approved a measure on Tuesday to start charging prisoners $142.42 per day of their prison stay. It could save the county between $3 and $5 million a year. And before anyone starts overreacting: not everyone will be charged. The county will review each prisoner’s case to evaluate whether or not they can afford the fee. The levy is mainly targeted toward white-collar criminals and drunk drivers—those who have jobs and are also repeat offenders.

This is in direct response to last month’s California’s state prisons’ transfer of lower-level drug offenders, thieves and other convicts to the responsibility of counties. That’s great for California state prison budgets, but no so much for the county level. According to the Huffington Post, this “prison realignment” is one of many actions the state has taken in the past few years to try to balance its budget. Do note that these budget woes of the prison system did not arise from the economic crisis; the number of offenders serving life sentences quadrupled between 1984 and 2008, according to USA Today.

Do you feel that this charge is fair? It might actually help repeat offenders by being an even greater deterrent than prison itself. Sure, being locked up isn’t a walk in the park, but to have to pay for it, too? That would be adding insult to injury … except for the fact that you definitely did something to get there. And possibly you’d done it before.

Think about it-more than 60,000 inmates pass through the Riverside jails each year. County Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed the idea, and thinks that his estimate of up to $5 million in savings is a conservative one, recognizing at the same time that not everyone who can afford to pay will pay.

“We believe that 25% of the people who go through our jail systems can afford to pay for their jail stay,” he said. “If we just grab 25% of those, that would save the county or the city $6.7 million.”

What do you think? Should counties across the state, even the nation, adopt this measure? Do you agree with Washington’s corrections officials who are considering cutting supervision to thousands of former prisoners currently on parole? What about Texas only feeding their prisoners two meals a day on weekends since April? Do you agree with Minnesota’s corrections officials who warn that any further cuts to the state prison budget will endanger public safety? Overall, we feel that the “pay to stay” measure is the most effective.

Have you been accused of a crime? Are you facing jail time because of a criminal act? Have you been accused of a crime you didn’t commit? Call the Law Offices of Glew & Kim immediately on 714-713-4525. We can help. We offer free case analyses and believe in equal access to justice for all.

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