Earlier this year, Jasper County built a new detention center, which helped ease overcrowding. But unfortunately, they're filling up faster than they ever imagined. In fact, they have on average 20 more inmates each day than they budgeted for, and county officials say will mean $70,000 extra they'll spend this year.
Now the county is looking at taking some steps to help offset the added costs. County officials are looking at taking some of the burden off taxpayers and putting it on inmates.
"I think something has to be done," said county council member Gladys Jones. "I think it's time the taxpayers of Jasper County have to stop paying out of their pocket for prisoners to stay in jail."
That's why many county council members are in favor of a proposal to start charging inmates. The proposal calls for a $10 admission fee, a $2 fee per medical visit, and $2 per prescription.
However, if an inmate starts a fight and a nurse is called in, they'll be required to pay $25. If a doctor is needed, it's $75.
The money would be taken out of their personal accounts at the jail.
"We're going to recoup some money, a small amount of money from it," said Steve Malphrus with Jasper County Emergency Management. "I think the main issue is letting these detainees understand even in jail, they're responsible for their actions."
Although some are concerned inmates won't be able to pay for these fees, county officials say inmates are spending $80 to $125 each week on canteen items such as magazines, junk food, and extra personal care items.
"If they've got the money to pay for extras like that, they need to pay for some of their expenses," said Jones. "I think it's time the free ride ends. If they misbehave, they need to pay."
Most of the county council members we talked with were in favor of some kind of fee structure. Right now, the county is making final changes on the proposal and will represent it to council next month. The proposal will have to make it through three readings and a public hearing before the fees would start.
Charging imamates is not all that uncommon. Jasper County officials say they found that a lot of jails in our area, including Beaufort County and Chatham County, charge inmates for damage fees, and there are quite a few that charge for prescriptions and medical copays.