Convicts Could Pay for Jail Time

December 12, 2006 - Posted at 9:49 p.m. CST

PARAGOULD, AR -- A proposed Arkansas state law could soon have criminals paying extra to go behind bars.  House Bill 1022 was introduced Tuesday and would charge convicts a fee for the cost of jailing.  If the bill becomes law, it would cost criminals $20 dollars extra and county jails would be the ones reaping the benefits.  It sounds like a good idea... but one Region 8 sheriff isn't so sure.

"We could use that for operation funds, maintain, upkeep, things like that.  We're in the process of the jail being 12 years old, so we're at the life span of a jail that needs some upkeep done to it, so it will be a big benefit to us if it does pass," said Greene County Judge Jesse Dollars.

The Greene County Jail was originally designed to hold 84 prisoners and on Tuesday, the population housed 140.  If House Bill 1022 passes, at $20 bucks a prisoner, its money the jail could see coming in.

But it may only be money on paper...Greene County Sheriff Dan Langston believes the law will just create more clutter and work for his office.

"We have quite a few ledgers here that are full and we just did an account the other day, A-G and we have a little over $500,000 worth of money on the books.  So again, $20 is fine, but how are we going to collect it?" asked Sheriff Langston.

A non-payment of fines means a warrant for arrest...and more paperwork for authorities.

"Incarceration is the answer," said Sheriff Langston, "Put them in jail and once they are in jail, they will come up with the money. But if you put them on a payment plan, a pay as you go, it won't work."

"If this does pass, they are looking at putting this in the computer and hopefully getting it from tax refunds from state tax refunds, so that would be one good way of making sure you do get your money at some point anyway," said Judge Dollars.

House Bill 1022 also would prohibit contractors from doing business with state agencies from employing illegal aliens.