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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Charges for Jail Meals

We have all heard of the many things Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona has applied to make jail a less inviting place. The latest in his "innovations" is to charge inmates for their meals.

A GUARDIAN reader sent clippings from the ARIZONA REPUBLIC newspaper with articles about the move to start charging inmates for their meals. Charging for meals will start in January of 2009 if all goes according to plan.

Inmates with money on their accounts will pay for meals before any commissary candy and extras are obtained. Inmates without funds will not be charged for meals if they can't pay but a "tab" of expenses for meals will be kept on each inmate. Should any money be put on their books meal costs will be deducted. Maricopa County bean counters contend meals run an average of $1.11 for each meal served to inmates. The Sheriff is going to charge inmates $1.25/day for meal costs.

The policy of charging inmates for food was authorized by Arizona Legislature in the late 1990's, but Arpaio said he stopped requiring them to pay when he started charging for visits to medical professionals. With the economy down there is a countywide edict to cut 20% from department budgets. Arpaio predicts this effort will trim about 5% from his office's annual meal expenditures. The savings is expected to amount to $900,000 per year off a meal budget of $16 million dollars.

Note: Idaho has a daily charge of $25/day for jail time up to a maximum of $400 for a 20 day sentence. The percentage actually collected is unknown. The amount noted is several years ago and may have changed with the passage of time.

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