- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

Jail officials in Northern Virginia are considering charging inmates for each day they are behind bars, to help pay for upkeep.

Officials in Alexandria and Fairfax County said they are working to enact a program that would require state and local inmates to pay a daily $1 fee, which in some cases would help cover meal expenses.

“We’re looking at doing a fee program. That could be a big boost to us,” said Maj. James Whitley of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county’s Adult Detention Center in Fairfax City.

The Fairfax County jail houses about 1,200 inmates.

Capt. David Rocco of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office said the city is “still working” on the possibility of imposing a daily fee on inmates at the city jail.

“We haven’t made a final decision yet,” Capt. Rocco said.

In July, the Virginia General Assembly authorized local governments to charge each inmate a daily fee of up to $1. The fees have been implemented in jails in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

The program is about to get started in Harrisonburg, Va.

Rockingham County Sheriff Don Farley said he expects to start charging jail fees as early as January. He said the $1 fee his office plans to charge will help defray the cost of the county jail in Harrisonburg, near the West Virginia state line.

The Rockingham jail now holds 15 federal and 245 state and local prisoners.

“I first got the idea in Colorado when I learned they have [automated teller machines] in their prisons,” Sheriff Farley said.

Federal rules prohibit the $1 daily charges, so federal inmates won’t have to pay the fee, Sheriff Farley said. Indigent prisoners also will be exempt, but they won’t be allowed to use the canteen, where prisoners can buy snacks, magazines and other leisure treats.

“The canteen is just a luxury,” Sheriff Farley said.

Still, the jail could earn as much as $245 a day from state and local inmates, he said.

Arlington County charges receiving fees, but not the $1 daily fee as the new law allows, Deputy Sheriff Maj. Karen Albert said.

Maryland does not specify daily fees for prisoners in local jurisdictions, but Montgomery and Prince George’s counties charge prisoners for specific services and provisions.

Montgomery County’s detention services collect more than $5 million annually from prisoners who earn wages for jobs outside jail, said Arthur M. Wallenstein, director of corrections and rehabilitation.

“We charge our prisoners on work release. They pay much more than [$1 daily],” he said.

Such prisoners must pay a minimum of $6 a day from jobs that vary from landscaping to working for lawyers and accountants, Mr. Wallenstein said. Those legal provisions have been in effect for about 30 years.

Prisoners awaiting trial are not charged, Mr. Wallenstein said, because they are considered innocent until convicted. Montgomery County jails confine an average of 1,100 prisoners.

Prince George’s County jails housed 1,277 prisoners as of Monday. Home-detention prisoners raise the total to 2,009. Prince George’s prisoners are not charged a daily fee, but must pay for home detention and medical services.

“We are now charging medical fees of $4,” Corrections Director Barry L. Stanton said.

Medical fees amounted to $4,250 for fiscal year 2003, which ended in June, he said.

The medical fees were imposed because some inmates “were pretending to be sick,” corrections spokeswoman Vicki Duncan said. “It was a waste of doctors’ and nurses’ time.”

Inmates who go to jobs or are on home detention while continuing to work must give a day’s pay each week to the corrections system, Miss Duncan said.

Inmates in the District currently do not have to pay any daily fees.

“We don’t have anything like that,” said Darryl Madden, public information officer for D.C. jails, which hold 3,284 prisoners.

D.C. inmates can earn stipends working in laundry, kitchens, and similar chores and put the stipends into an account to buy goods.

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