County mandates money for time
BRECKENRIDGE – The Board of County Commissioners officially approved the Summit County Jail’s cost of care program Monday, sanctioning a program already underway that charges inmates for time spent in the clink.
The program has raised concerns among some residents who feel that imposing an additional financial burden on people who may already have a difficult time adjusting back into society is unfair.
County Commissioner Bill Wallace reflected those concerns in a vote against the program.
“My vote is certainly not a reflection of my confidence in the sheriff or the jail,” he said. “It is something more of a philosophical nature. I believe that this is not something that we should adopt as policy.”
Under the program, which began July 1, the jail charges inmates $81.10 per day of incarceration. Those prisoners that arrange payment within 90 days can have that amount reduced to $45 per day.
“I just have an issue with this double whammy,” he said. “I certainly see the other side of the coin, yet at the same time, somebody who has spent time in jail, they’ve got an awful lot on their plate to not have a collection agency coming after them to make payments.”
Candy Snyder, who performs jail ministry at the facility, agreed.
“It’s hard enough when you get out of jail or prison to rehabilitate yourself and get back into society,” she said. “This added burden, I really think it’s just too much.”
However, Sheriff Joe Morales said the majority of feedback he’d received from citizens did not reflect Snyder’s view, but demonstrated “overwhelming” support of the program.
“I think it’s a fair thing to do,” he said. “We don’t want to see anybody have it be an immense burden to them or their family, but they do have a debt to society.”
Morales said jail staff would be flexible with those inmates who were genuinely unable to pay the fees but said the inmates who incurred the most substantial costs would be the ones who had failed to reform after being given second chances.
“When you’re doing 30 days in jail up here, or 60 or 90 days, you’ve done something really bad and you’ve done it numerous times,” he said. “It’s not additional punishment, it’s just paying to stay.
“We do realize these individuals – we do need and want them to be productive individuals in our community,” he added. “We also, I believe, have an obligation to have the citizens paid back.”
Snyder said that having to pay was a formidable burden to many of the inmates that she had spoken with.
“It could add up to a lot of money,” she said. “I talk to these inmates every week. They’re scared. They’re afraid of how in the world they’re going to pay it.”
Still, Morales said the average inmate at the facility would only face five days worth of costs.
“I look at it from the eyes of what it costs and what it takes to provide jail services,” he said. “It’s a 24-hours-a-day, never-ending machine, and it’s a huge cost to taxpayers.
“We’re jostling with budgets and high costs, and it comes down to, fundamentally, what’s fair and what’s legal,” he said.
Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or
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