There’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially at the Elko County jail in Northern Nevada. Believed to be a first of it’s kind program, the jail will now be charging inmates for meals and doctor’s visits.
Last week the Elko County Commission approved Sheriff Jim Pitts’ proposal to charge inmates $6 a day for meals, $10 for each doctor visit and $5 for initial booking into the jail. The Sheriff says this move will save county taxpayers millions of dollars a year. It currently costs about $85 a day per inmate to cover the costs of food, housing and medical services.
“We’re not the Hilton. These guys shouldn’t have a free ride,” said Pitts to the Elko Daily Free Press.
County Commissioner Grant Gerber thinks the fees should be higher, but nonetheless has backed the new proposal, saying, “Why should the people of Elko County pay for somebody else’s meals in jail?”
But not everyone is happy about the new fee-based meal service. At least one group is crying foul. If you guessed it was the ACLU, you win a free creamed chipped beef on toast dinner on your next visit to the Elko County jail. Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU Nevada, said that the county could be looking at a legal fight if it tries to charge prisoners for food.
“I was aghast that anyone was even thinking of doing this. It is unconstitutional – cruel and unusual punishment,” said Story to the Associated Press. Adding, “There is no value in trying to punish them further than the sentence that they are already serving.”
I seriously doubt Elko County is trying to add value to its jail experience; they are just hoping to save some of the taxpayer’s money. This program isn’t quite as evil as the ACLU would have you believe. Prisoners that work for the jail would be exempt from the fee as would be persons serving 24 hours or less. In addition, anyone found not guilty would be reimbursed for all fees paid.
The way it works is, fees will be deducted from an inmate’s commissary account, which can be paid by family members. Those without any money in their accounts would accrue a negative balance and that balance would remain should a prisoner ever come back to the jail.
“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. 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,” said Sheriff Pitts.
As for the doctor’s visit fees, Pitts said it was to cut down on inmates that fake illnesses.
“Once they hit our jail, they’re sick. And then when they get into the cells they talk to each other. 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,” Pitts told the commission.
I am all for this. It’s just too bad the ACLU will sue and some activist liberal judge will shut it down. I do think there is some legal basis for charging inmates for food. Think about it: children are required by law to attend school, but we charge them for lunch. They are not allowed to leave campus to feed themselves. If they don’t have lunch money; they don’t eat. Why should we treat school children more severely than scumbag criminals?