When you’re in jail, you don’t have any way to get a good job with health benefits. But that irrefutable fact isn’t stopping one Nevada county jail system from making inmates pay for their own meals and medical care while they’re imprisoned.
The Elko County Commission, which oversees the jail in that Nevada county, approved a plan on Wednesday to levy a $6 daily fee on inmates for meals, a $10 fee for visits to the doctor, and $5 fee for getting booked. People in jail for less than 24 hours and people who get jobs in the jail will be exempt, and those who are in jail but are later found innocent will be reimbursed.
The scheme is the brainchild of Sheriff Jim Pitts, who argues that the government shouldn’t have to foot the cost of jailing people.
“We’re not the Hilton,” Pitts told the Elko Daily Free Press. “These guys shouldn’t have a free ride.”
In reality, the fees will largely hit the families of those imprisoned. The money will be deducted from prisoners’ accounts that are set up to allow family and friends to give small amounts of money for items like shampoo, envelopes, and candy. If an inmate doesn’t have family depositing money into his or her account, the fees put them into the negative.
“All I’m doing is taking my cut first, before they buy their candies,” Pitts said. “They need to pay for their food first before they get their dessert.”
State-level costs for imprisonment are soaring across the country thanks to a system of mass incarceration that has caused imprisoned populations to explode.
Some jails and prisons already charge inmates some form of health care payments. That has caused some to worry that hyper cost-consciousness is having serious adverse effects for the health of the imprisoned. Budgetary considerations led one prison in 2010 to deny an ambulance to a prisoner suffering seizures. He died.
While infamous Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has floated the idea of charging inmates $1 a meal, his plan has not gone through, and there are no other known jails or prisons that charge inmates to eat.