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Pay To Stay? Genesee County Considers Charging Inmates For Time In Jail


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Pay to stay? Genesee County considers charging inmates for time in jail


Published: Wednesday, September 07, 2011, 9:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, September 07, 2011, 9:17 AM

By Ron Fonger | Flint Journal The Flint Journal

Follow 67 roundbox_arrow_up.gifShare close Google Buzz Digg Stumble Upon Fark Reddit Share Email Print GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan -- Facing a $17.6-million deficit, the county Board of Commissioners is considering charging inmates for their stays in the county jail.


"When you go to the hotel, you pay. They get three meals a day and we're paying," said Commissioner Omar Sims, D-Flint. "It's time that the criminals of this town pay."


9970266-large.jpgView full sizeGenesee County Jail watch and wave from jail windows in this 2011 Flint Journal file photo. County commissioners are talking about charging inmates for their stay in jail even though Sheriff Robert Pickell says many won't be able to pay.Sims asked Sheriff Robert Pickell to report back to the county board about the feasibility of the idea, and Pickell said he was already looking at some kind of pay-to-stay proposal.


"I'll have something for you," Pickell told commissioners last week, declining to elaborate on exactly what he might propose.


Like every other office in county government, the sheriff stands to be hurt as commissioners develop a new budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.


New revenue from inmates could save county jobs that are otherwise on the chopping block.


One drawback to charging inmates for staying in jail, however: the that potential that many won't be able to pay the bill.


Pickell said fully 40 percent of inmates can't even pay a $12, one-time booking fee let alone the $68-per day cost of keeping one person in jail.


Sims said inmates who can't pay for their jail stays might be able to contribute in another way, like additional public service work.


"There should be another requirement (if you can't pay) so you can make your contribution to society," he said


Last year, Sims raised eyebrows after he suggested that the sheriff's work detail be expanded to include performing chores for senior citizens as a way to get something back for taxpayers who foot the bill to keep the jail operating .


Sims said he hasn't abandoned that idea either.


"Some folks thought I was crazy (but) I'm going to support it again," he said.


Commissioners are facing one huge dilemma in this year's budget. They have less money to spend because of declining property values and tax revenues, but several commissioners also want to spend more to help fight crime in the county through the Sheriff's Department.


Last year, operating the jail alone cost the county $15.3 million, almost 20 cents of every available dollar in the general fund.


Pickell started lobbying out loud for funding for his office last week, saying "Who the heck wants to come to Genesee County to start a business" when the area had the highest violent crime rate in the country last year?


"People are moving out," the sheriff said.


Commissioner Joseph Graves, R-Argentine Twp., said he won't support across-the-board cuts to every area of county government this year because no other service is as important to the area as law enforcement.


"We have to make public safety the priority," Graves said. "It's not safe. If we have any cuts (in the Sheriff's Department) then we are just not doing our jobs."


Commissioners are facing a $17.6 million budget deficit this year, which could translate into as many as 145 layoffs, Commissioner Patrick Gleason, D-Richfield Twp., has said.


"We are going to have a budget before us that we are going to despise," predicted Commissioner John Northrup, D-Flint.








Only 49 percent of sentenced state inmates were held for violent offenses. Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges. [21][22]



Edited by Croppled1
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