The Riverside County Board of Supervisors today authorized the drafting of an ordinance that would require inmates at county detention facilities to reimburse the county for the cost of their incarceration.
Supervisor Jeff Stone brought the idea forward, labeling it "Require Every Convict Occupant Reimburse County Expenses,'' or RECORCE, which highlights the $142-a-day expense of housing, feeding, clothing, guarding and providing medical treatment for each detainee.
"The goal of this ordinance would be to ... send a message to those who are considering committing crimes in our county: Not only will you spend time in jail, but you'll also end up paying for it,'' Stone said.
He said if an inmate ends up serving a yearlong sentence in one of the county's five detention facilities, the annual cost adds up to about $52,000.
"We should be reimbursed for the expenses we encounter,'' the supervisor said. "We should look under every nook and cranny to find out the costs that can be recovered. This is about minimizing the cost to taxpayers.''
Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit questioned whether the measure would have any practical application, considering that the majority of inmates have limited or no financial means.
According to Stone, the measure would be targeted at people convicted of misdemeanors who have assets and jobs.
"They should be held responsible for their actions,'' he said. "Even if it nets only two or three million dollars a year, that's money that closes the (budget) gap in the Sheriff's Department. We spend more on a convict in Riverside County jails than what some people pay to send their kids to college. It's appalling.''
Stone said cost recovery would be accomplished with the help of the District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, Probation Department, Sheriff's Department and the courts.
Judges regularly impose court processing fees on convicts, and Stone indicated that RECORCE could be combined with that.
The board directed the Office of County Counsel to study how to implement the ordinance and return in four months with proposed language. --City News Service