Society

Elko County Jail To Charge Inmates For Meals, Doctor Visits

| by Kathryn Schroeder
The ACLU is very upset with the Elko County Jail after they have
proposed to charge inmates for food, doctor's visits, and booking.

The Elko County Jail houses 120 inmates and is almost always at capacity.

At $85 per day between food, services, housing, and utilities for
inmates, taxpayers are paying $10,000 per day and millions of dollars
a year, according to Sheriff Jim Pitts, reports Elko Daily Free Press.

Pitts' proposal to offset costs to the prisoners is seen as not only a
fiscal concern, but he believes it is "unjust for law-abiding residents
to pay the full price for incarceration."

"These guys shouldn't have a free ride," Pitts said. "Society
shouldn't be paying for their wrongs."

Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU Nevada, does not agree.

"I was aghast that anyone was even thinking of doing this," Story
said. "It is unconstitutional -- cruel and unusual punishment. There is
no value in trying to punish them further than the sentence that they
are already serving,"

The new policy states that Elko County inmates will be exempt from the
fees if they work at the jail or are incarcerated for less than 24
hours. Any inmate found innocent will be reimbursed, reports the Las
Vegas Sun.

Fees for inmates services will be deducted from their commissary
account. Should an inmate not have any money they will incur a
negative balance, and that balance will remain on their "account"
if they are released and return to jail later.

"It has nothing to do with them getting out of jail, but if they ever
come back with any money, that will be applied to what they owe us,"
Pitts said. "All I'm doing is taking my cut first, before they buy
their candies. They need to pay for their food first before they get
their dessert."

As for the doctor visit costs...

Pitts said the fees to go to the doctor are to help offset the
increase in inmates faking illnesses.

"Once they hit our jail, they're sick. And then when they get into the
cells they talk to each other," Pitts said. "They say, 'Oh, you got
aspirin for that? Or you got a prescription for that?' So everyone in
that cell ... (claims to have) the same disease."

The cost of the doctor visit will be $10; a prescription will cost an inmate $5.

The county commission has approved the general request to charge
inmates. The final details are now being worked out.