If prisoners at Anderson County Jail in Tennessee want to wear pants or use toilet paper, they may have to pay. County commissioners passed three resolutions to charge inmates for a host of basic necessities in hopes passing on the high cost of incarceration.
As public funds grow short, inmates are expected to pick up the tab for the high cost of incarceration. It is unclear how the new fees will affect prisoners, who are generally poor and may not be too keen on paying for their own lockup.
Under the program, prisoners will need to pay $6.26 for each blanket they use, $1.15 per towel and $0.29 for toilet tissue.
Jay Yeager, a county law director who initiated the pay-to-stay program, said, “Our taxpayers pay $62 a day to house one inmate … Our inmate care, medical cares, housing care, all those budgetary codes have escalated over the past several years, and it’s an unreasonable burden on our taxpayers. What we’re trying to do is shift the burden off the taxpayers’ back, to the inmates.”
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The measures passed rapidly with a supermajority of votes, and Mayor Terry Frank must now approve them. Frank has stated that the resolutions “may go a little too far,” and she is expected to veto one of them in the belief that forcing prisoners to foot the bill for toilet paper and feminine items may lead to poor sanitation. To stay certified by the state, certain cleanliness standards must be met.
Anderson County is just the latest jail to implement new inmate fees as local governments tighten their belts. However, experts question how much revenue such programs can actually bring in.
Dwight Aarons, a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, said that these plans are likely “more symbolic than anything else,” and stated, “I really don’t know how people in jail are supposed to make enough money to be able pay for those items.”
Even Yeager noted, “We’re hoping to recover some money, but honestly, the likelihood of getting a high-percentage reimbursement is small.”