Weber County May Bill Jail Inmates

Weber County May Bill Jail Inmates

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Weber County is considering billing jail inmates for a portion of the $50 a day it costs to house them.

If county commissioners decide to go ahead with purchasing software to carry out the billings, a system to charge inmates could be in place by Jan. 1, said Jerry Cook, chief deputy of the countys Corrections Division.

The prisoners would receive a billing invoice after completing their sentence. Those who ignored the bill might be referred to a collections agency, said Deputy County Attorney Dave Wilson.

Only inmates who have been convicted and are under the jurisdiction of county would be affected by the program, Cook said.

The state pays Weber County $42.32 per day for each of the 125 state inmates housed in the jail, and the federal government pays $50 per day for each of the 225 federal inmates kept there.

Cook said the money would be used to help balance the jails budget.

The fee rate and any county revenue goals have yet to be determined.

Cache County has operated such a program since the Legislature authorized inmate billing in May 2003.

County inmates are charged $43 per day, said Sharon Nielson, legal assistant to the Cache County attorney. If inmates participate in work programs, drug court or school, the fee is waived.

The county has collected nearly $53,000 since it started billing inmates, Nielson said.

About 20 percent of the inmates billed have paid in full or have worked out a payment plan with the county, she said.

The remainder have ignored the notices, declared bankruptcy or changed billing addresses.

Nielson estimates that former inmates still owe Cache County nearly $1 million in pay-to-stay charges.

The county plans to prosecute those who refuse to pay, Nielson said. No action has been taken yet, because the county is still trying to contact former inmates who have moved, she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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