AUGUSTA, Maine -- A proposal to require Kennebec County Jail inmates to pay fees of up to $250 to defray part of the cost of their incarceration will be considered Tuesday by county commissioners.
District Attorney Evert Fowle endorsed the concept of board charges, which have been tried out in several other states.
"I think it's a great idea," Fowle said. "If they are made to pay, there's a certain amount of poetic justice and might make them less likely to want to come back to jail."
Commissioners have been trying to reduce jail operating costs, which make up about $4 million of the $9 million county budget funded by taxpayers. The commissioners have already raised rates for inmates boarded in Augusta by other counties.
Jails in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Missouri impose board charges on inmates.
"It is a very quickly growing trend," said Stephen Ingley, executive director of the American Jail Association, based in Hagerstown, Md. "County jails are at the bottom of the funding totem pole."
He said that tough economic conditions are forcing county officials to find new funding sources.
However, results are mixed. A county in Minnesota suspended charges after losing $6,000 over four months; Missouri collected $384,000, almost half from one inmate. Cincinnati refunded its board charges.