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MERCER COUNTY $10 a day for jail stay is proposed



Published: Tue, January 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



If an inmate is acquitted, the fee would be forgiven.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- Inmates confined to Mercer County Jail would have to pay a $10-per-day incarceration fee under a cost-containment proposal offered by a county prison board member.

Olivia Lazor, a Mercer County commissioner and member of the prison board, presented her plan to the board Monday.

She has long been a proponent of assessing costs to inmates for their stay in the county jail as a way of reducing escalating jail costs.

Under her plan, inmates would face a $10-per-day lockup charge that would begin on their first day of incarceration.

The jail averages 170 inmates a day.

Awaiting court: Lazor acknowledged that about 80 percent of the inmates at any given time haven't been convicted of any crime but are being held in jail awaiting a court date.

They would be assessed the same $10 fee, but if they're acquitted of the charges against them, they wouldn't have to pay, she said.

Those sentenced to time already served would be presented with a bill when they are released, she said.

Inmates could begin paying their financial debt to the jail while still incarcerated or could be billed when they leave. Failure to pay the bill would result in the debt's being turned over to a collection agency, Lazor said.

The whole idea, she said, is to instill financial responsibility in inmates.

Other fees: They already pay a $5 fee for seeing a doctor or nurse outside the regularly scheduled medical visits to the jail, and that charge would be incorporated in the new policy, Lazor said.

Similarly, inmates would be charged if they ask that a barber be brought into the jail. Inmates now cut their own hair, she said.

It's not big money and won't end the problem of rising jail expenses, but it will put a cost on staying in jail, Lazor said.

James Epstein, county district attorney and president of the prison board, said the plan could come up for a vote at the board's February meeting.




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