Letter: Debtor's prison

May 6, 2014 

A recent Tri-City Herald article outlined overcrowding at the Benton County jail and the need for more money for additional staff. At the same time, Benton County continues to be one of the few counties in Washington to jail low-income people for nonpayment of court-ordered fines.

At a recent talk on the subject, it was pointed out that on any given day, up to 100 individuals are sitting out fines in the jail. Since the fines are being "forgiven" at the rate of $50 a day (which county coffers will never see) and it costs $68 a day to keep an individual in jail, taxpayers are losing $118 a day for each inmate while keeping the jail overcrowded.

County commissioners could fix this fiscally irresponsible policy and relieve the overcrowding at the same time by following the lead of many Washington counties in simply turning delinquent fines over to collection.


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