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Mass. Sheriff Charging Inmates [Money For Being Jailed]

By Associated Press

March 9, 2002, 1:26 PM EST

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- Available immediately: room, bed and three meals a day for $5. Checkout time: none.

Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson has a new moneysaving plan of making prisoners pay for their meals and a cot.
"If they've got money to buy things from the canteen, they have money to pay their own way," Hodgson said. "Inmates need to learn responsibility. They have to be accountable just like everyone else. They shouldn't be inflation or recession free."

Inmates advocates have been harshly critical of Hodgson for some of his other measures, such as restoring chain gangs, and charging inmates for haircuts, medical care and transportation.

The $5-a-day room and board would be deducted automatically from an inmate's account. When an inmate is sentenced to a jail in Bristol County, Hodgson said, any money they have goes into a jail account that they do not control until their sentence is complete.

The only way to avoid the fee would be for an inmate to either have no funds to begin with or to transfer all of his or her funds to someone else before they enter jail, he said. Indigent inmates would not have to pay.

The $35 a week charge, that goes into effect in three months, will raise $1.7 million to offset other budget cuts, he said. The average annual cost of housing a prisoner is $23,000, Hodgson said. Bristol County's average daily prisoner count is 970, and last year a total of 11,000 prisoners went through its system.

Hodgson said repeat offenders should not to view jail time as a worry-free way to "kick back" for a few months.

"Hey, this is the real world. Don't try to protect or hide (inmates) from it," he said.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press



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