Inland Empire News

Riverside County considers charging jail inmates

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Riverside County supervisors want to find out if charging inmates to stay in jail would be legal. They also want to charge people to visit prisoners.

With the Riverside County budget still in a big hole, officials say they're looking everywhere to help bring in more money. And that includes the county jail.

But this is one idea that's creating a lot of controversy. Donell Watts from Moreno Valley says he got out of jail Wednesday afternoon. He says he doesn't like the idea of paying $142 a night for staying in a cell.

"I don't know about that," said Watts. "Because we don't have no money as is."

There are a lot of people against the idea.

"That's ridiculous," said one Riverside County resident.

But there's also a lot of support.

"I think it's fair to charge them," said another Riverside County resident. "You don't stay anywhere for free in life."

"I come from a business background," said Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone. "I run the county from my perspective like a business, and we can't be offering a free hotel across the street."

Stone says he came up with the idea.

"We believe we might be preempted under some state laws," said Stone. "That's what county counsel is doing. They're investigating all the preemptions. And we're going to apply our will where we possibly can in our effort to recover funds in this tough economic time."

So there are questions about the legality of the idea. But if it is approved, inmates could be paying fees to stay in Riverside County Jail as early as sometime in 2012.

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