Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Clermont to charge inmates for stays


County to recover some costs

BY TOM O'NEILL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — Crime doesn't pay, and criminals in Clermont County are about to.

        Following recent approval of the county commissioners, the county in January will begin charging inmates for their incarceration in Clermont County Jail.

        The charge: a maximum of $57 a day, plus damage restitution.

        Clermont joins only a few counties in Ohio, including Hamilton, that have a pay-for-stay program. It is thought to be the first in Ohio to enforce collections through a social service agency.

        The Clermont County Department of Human Services will be responsible for collections.

        “We're looking at it more as a total justice program to help us best serve all the people involved, not just the inmate,” Tom Albers, director of human services, said Tuesday. “We'll always keep in mind the needs of the family.”

        Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg said Tuesday that it was difficult to estimate the program's cost benefit, but that a portion of the funds collected would befunneled back into jail costs.

        The system will work this way: Inmates upon release will get a “bill” and a payment plan through Human Services. Collections will be based on a sliding, ability-to-pay system. Money will not be taken from child support, victims' restitution or any other prior court-ordered obligations.

        In fact, officials see the pay- for-stay as a key to getting and keeping former inmates in a program to maintain child support. According to the project proposal provided to commissioners, there are 245 felony nonsupport cases that could be targeted for work-activity requirements.

        The county now incurs a significant cost from placing children of inmates. In 1997, for instance, 36 children were placed at a cost of $294,038. That increased to $323,767 last year and was expected to grow this year to $542,960.

        Money collected will go into the county's general fund. The jail, however, is expected to benefit. It now has about 330 inmates for a facility with a capacity of 264.

        Earlier this year, the county contracted with Morrow and Pickaway counties to house some of its less-dangerous inmates at a cost of about $55 a day.

        That contract expires Dec. 31. The annual cost of maintaining that arrangement would be about $700,000 annually, Sheriff Rodenberg said.

        The pay-for-stay program “certainly would help out,” he added.

       



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