The Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, Calif., where jails were crowded before the state started sending them inmates.
A one-night stay in this city’s finest hotel costs $190, complete with sumptuous sheets and a gourmet restaurant. Soon, a twin metal bunk at the county jail, with meals served on plastic trays, will run $142.42.
With already crowded jails filling quickly and an $80 million shortfall in the budget, Riverside County officials are increasingly desperate to find every source of revenue they can. So last month, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a plan to charge inmates for their stay, reimbursing the county for food, clothing and health care.
Prisoners with no assets will not have to pay, but the county has the ability to garnish wages and place liens on homes under the ordinance, which goes into effect this week.
As the county supervisor who pressed for the ordinance, Jeff Stone, likes to put it: “You do the crime, you will serve the time, and now you will also pay the dime.”
While a few other local governments have tried similar ideas, Riverside is by far the largest to enact what many call a “pay to stay” plan. Mr. Stone estimates that about 25 percent of the county’s prisoners would be able to pay something and that the county could collect as much as $6 million a year.
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