Riverside County Charges for Jail Time

"If you do the crime, you'll do the time, and now, you'll also pay the dime."

By Paul Krueger
|  Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011  |  Updated 2:49 PM PDT
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Riverside County has a new motto: "If you do the crime, you'll do the time, and now, you'll also pay the dime."

That's how County Supervisor Jeff Stone explained a new policy that requires jail inmates to pay the cost of their incarceration.

Stone and his colleagues approved the new law by a unanimous vote last week. Stone said the measure will take effect in January, just in time to stick New Year's Eve DUI offenders with the cost of their jail time.

"So if they spend ten days in our county jail at $142 a day, that's $1,420 we're going to be expected to be reimbursed," Stone told NBC San Diego.

And San Diego residents should pay special attention to that warning, because Riverside County borders San Diego on the north, with the cities of Murrieta and Temecula, which is known for its vineyard tours and wine-tasting rooms.

Supervisor Stone said Riverside will only collect the jail fee from inmates who are financially able to pay it, so indigent inmates will not be sent a bill.

A county probation officer will review the inmate's financial records and decide if they're able to pay.

If those inmates don't pay the bill, Stone warns, "We will attach a lien against (their) property, so the taxpayers will get reimbursed at some time in the future."

Stone said the jail fee is needed because Riverside County has a projected $80 million budget deficit, in part because the state has shifted some criminal justice services to counties, but not reimbursed those counties for the full cost of incarceration, probation, and other services.

Stone hopes the jail fee will also act as deterrent to would-be criminals.

"We're holding people accountable for their actions," he said. "We want people to think twice about doing crime in Riverside County, where you could be expected to come up with thousands of dollars to pay the county back for services that have been provided to you because of actions you undertook on your own behalf."

But some attorneys are strongly criticizing the new Riverside county law.

San Diego defense attorney Mitch Mehdy said it's an unwarranted tax, and is unfair, because people convicted of crimes have in most cases paid a fine and served time in jail.

“You know, look at that jail facility,” he said. “At $142 a day for a cheese sandwich? I don’t think so.”

Mehdy also said the $142 a day cost does not reflect the real cost of housing a minimum-security inmate, who sleeps in a cot.

According to the Los Angeles Times, at least four other California counties are trying to recoup jail fees from inmates, charging them from $20 a day in Glenn County, to $118 a day in Placer County.

The San Diego County Sheriff's department says they have no plans for a similar law.

County Supervisor Bill Horn is studying the possibility though, he said.

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