Beach Bill Would Make Inmates Pay Cost Of Their Incarceration

TRENTON � Sen. James Beach has introduced a bill that would require inmates with financial means to pay the state for the cost of their incarceration

The bill (S-2809) would require the state Department of Corrections to establish and collect an annual fee from inmates in state correctional facilities. The money would be used to offset the cost of their imprisonment. The fee established by the bill would be equivalent to the average cost to the department of incarcerating an inmate for one year.

�It now costs the State of New Jersey an average of $38,700 a year to house an inmate in the state prison system,� Sen. Beach (D-Camden)said. �Given the current state of our finances and the burden already borne by our taxpayers, it makes sense that we tap into the assets of our prison population to help defray the cost of their imprisonment.�

The fee set by the bill is to be pro-rated for prisoners incarcerated for 334 days or less. The calculation of the number of days of incarceration would include time served prior to conviction.

�The state conducts a pre-sentencing investigation of people convicted of breaking the law,� Sen. Beach said. �The determination of an inmate’s ability to pay � their assets, liabilities and dependents � would be based on information contained in the presentence investigation report and findings and orders of the sentencing court.�

The bill grants the commissioner discretion to waive or reduce the fee if an inmate’s financial situation changes subsequent to the preparation of the presentence investigation report and the inmate is no longer able to pay the fee and is unlikely to become able to pay. The fee can also be waived if it would unduly burden the inmate’s dependents.

The bill authorizes the commissioner to file a lien against the property of these inmates to ensure payment of the fee and establishes procedures for filing of the lien.

The bill would make the fees collected from inmates available for use in alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs. Under the bill, the commissioner would be responsible for establishing and collecting this fee for inmates confined in a halfway house or similar private nonprofit community-based residential treatment centers.

�A sizeable portion of the money we collect from New Jersey�s hardworking taxpayers is used to run the state�s correctional system,� Sen. Beach said. �It�s only fair that the inmates for whom that system exists contribute their share. And the money will be used to treat the alcohol and drug problems that are, in many cases, the reason these inmates are in the system in the first place.�