Thursday, April 23, 2009 Guest Post - Can I Get A Loan For My Jail Fees?!?

[Editor's Note: I'm earnin' my paycheck today. Ebonie is back.]

Still trying to wrap my mind around this one.
In a new measure that went into effect last week, inmates in Florida’s Polk County jails will now be charged a $2 fee daily for their stay.

“The fee will help subsidize costs for services such as food, clothing and laundry, deputies say. Sheriff Grady Judd said every dollar collected from inmates is a dollar taxpayers won’t have to pay.

The jail will keep tabs on who pays and who doesn’t. If someone owes money and is arrested again, money in his possession will be applied toward debt. If a person is found not guilty or is acquitted, he will not get his money back, Judd said.

Judd said he hopes to collect $300,000 to $500,000 a year.

If all inmates were able to pay the $2 fee, about $1,825,000 would be collected. But Judd expects that less than half of the inmates will be able to afford to pay.”
I feel some type of way about this new policy.

On one hand, if prisoners are paying for their stay at public prisons, this could offset the costs taxpayers contribute. But the Sheriff already said he doesn’t expect even half of prisoners to be able to afford the fee.

Wouldn’t it be better to work this fee into the labor programs that prisoners already participate in? Or to use another alternative instead of just sticking it on a prisoner’s tab if he or she can’t pay? Instead of college loans, after release, they will have to worry about paying back the cost of imprisonment?

Also, if you’re wrongly incarcerated, you don’t even get a refund. That sucks. What about all those people who stay in jail for years and then evidence appears proving they didn’t commit the crime? In addition to years lost in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, they will also have to pay the tab. Florida has the nation’s third-largest prison system, and has six private prison facilities throughout the state.

For private prisons, if such a policy went into effect, prisoners would essentially be paying into a system that already profits from housing prisoners.
“What is the Polk County going to do when the inmates can’t pay?” wrote a commenter on the Tampa Tribune article. “Cry and say that they don’t have enough money to keep the jail running as it should be? Seriously, how many inmates have $2 a day to stay in jail? If the State and Counties are so worried about budgets, then maybe they should look at salaries of politicians and see where budget cuts really need to be made.”
Such a fee could deter some prisoners from returning to prison, but more likely, it would just lead to more prisoners owing the correctional system.

And this particular policy is promoted as helping out the average tax payer, but who’s really going to benefit from this new daily fee?
Correctional facilities cost state governments nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government $5 billion more. And With more than 2.3 million people behind bars, the United States leads the world in both the number and percentage of residents it incarcerates.
But would the spread of policies such as a daily imprisonment fee deter people from crime, help with the costs that states have to pay for prison operations, or make much of an impact to tax payers in the long run?

Question: What do you think? Should a daily fee for imprisonment become more widespread?

Polk County inmates will pay $2 a day to stay [TampaBayOnline]

More From Ebonie [Whatlookslikecrazy blog]

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