BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy said an inmate “pay to stay” program would not work at the county jail, despite the efforts of some county commissioners to institute such a program.
The program would require inmates staying in the Sullivan County Jail longer than 24 hours to pay $35 per day.
Cassidy said he agreed inmates should have to pay for various costs, but did not see how a pay to stay program would work for the county.
“I understand the concept. These individuals should pay for the food, the shelter, the incarceration fees, but whether it be successful or not, I really just don’t think so,” Cassidy said.
Sullivan County commissioners were expected to discuss a resolution that would have requested county judicial system officials to review a pay to stay program at Thursday night’s meeting, but sponsor Hershel Glover moved hearing the resolution to next month’s meeting.
That daily $35 fee adds up. Inmates with longer sentences would have to pay over $1,000 per month.
Cassidy doesn’t see where that money would come from.
“It sort of sets an inmate up for failure. Most of the inmates that get incarcerated, they already live in poverty,” Cassidy said.
The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office did not request the program be implemented, Cassidy said.
According to the resolution, the program would be instituted to save taxpayers money on the jail, which is one of the biggest expenditures for the county.
If passed, 90 percent of the fees would go to the county’s general fund to pay for the Jail Obligation Bond, 6% toward jail employee raises, and the remaining 4% would pay for jail maintenance.
But Cassidy said if those inmates fresh out of jail can’t pay, then fees could be passed onto family members.
“Is this going to hinder the inmates’ families?” Cassidy said. “Are they going to be the one that actually has to pay these bills? So, something else that you’re going to have to look at.”
Additionally, Cassidy said charging the fees could result in higher recidivism, leading those inmates back to jail.
“Is that going to be a contempt of court or another arrest warrant where it just bogs up our system all over again?” Cassidy said. “Let’s see what we can do to set these individuals up for success, get them a job, get them back to their families where they’re tax-paying citizens, and where they don’t repeat this cycle and just come right back through our system.”
Cassidy said the jail already incurs fines for things like ankle monitoring and doctor visits inside the jail. He said many inmates already do not pay those fees.