RENO, Nev. – A northern Nevada county is moving ahead with what may be a first-in-the-nation plan to charge county jail inmates for food and medical care.
The Elko County Commission on Wednesday 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, a move he says will save county taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
Pitts said it costs about $85 per day per inmate to cover the costs of food, services, housing and utilities at the facility with a capacity of 120 – a total of about $10,000 daily.
“We’re not the Hilton,” he told the Elko Daily Free Press. “These guys shouldn’t have a free ride.”
While it’s not uncommon in some states for counties to charge inmates a small fee or copayment for medical care, National Sheriffs’ Association operations director Fred Wilson said he’s not aware of any charging for meals.
Under the new policy, Elko County inmates will be exempt from the fees if they work at the jail or are incarcerated for less than 24 hours. Inmates ultimately found innocent will be reimbursed.
In the coming weeks, the fees will be deducted from an individual inmate’s commissary account, where family and friends can deposit money for the inmate to order items such as candy, shampoo and envelopes.
Those with no money would see their account accrue a negative balance, and that balance would remain in the event the inmate was released but later returned to jail for whatever reason.