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Go to jail — and fork over $10

Utah County may impose a booking fee

SHARE Go to jail — and fork over $10

PROVO — Crime never pays, or so the saying goes.

Soon, however, folks accused of crimes in Utah County may be forced to pay.

If the Utah County Commission approves a proposal, people taken to jail because they are being accused of a crime could be forced to cough up a few bucks.

The commission will decide today whether to impose a $10 inmate processing fee to the men and women booked into the Utah County jail for investigation of a crime.

"We want (the arrested person) to pay more money for his own incarceration, not the citizens," said Jim Tracy, the Utah County sheriff. "Now the booking fee is assessed to the actual suspect, not the cities."

Forcing inmates to pay for a portion of their own jail time saves taxpayer dollars, he said.

County residents suffer enough from criminal behavior — first when they are robbed or vandalized, and then again when they have to pay to house the inmates, officials say.

"Why should the taxpayers have to foot that bill?" Commissioner Gary Herbert said. "This is something, if you're caught and sent to the county jail, then the individual inmate themselves will be responsible for that cost to process, which is probably better."

City officials across Utah Valley will likely breath a collective sigh of relief if the commission approves the inmate-processing fee.

This summer, the commission considered forcing cities to pay a booking fee when police from cities across the valley booked an inmate into jail for alleged misdemeanor crimes if officers could have issued a citation.

"We had some cities that were probably booking a little more aggressively than they needed to," Herbert said. "There isn't always a need to book someone in the county jail. They may need to be picked up and cited, but that doesn't mean you have to book them."

The $48 dollar fee was meant to curb overcrowding issues at the jail, Tracy said. But as word spread that the county might impose a hefty fee to cities to book criminals into the county jail, local police forces changed tactics — they started issuing more citations and stopped booking criminals in the county jail.

"We have always attempted not to send anyone over there," said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron. "We try to utilize (the county jail) when absolutely necessary. We understand the problem of overcrowding."

Although expansion of the jail, which opened in 1997, is on the horizon, the smaller number of bookings has extended the expansion time frame by several years, Tracy said.

The facility was built to house 300 inmates, but within two years it was necessary to double bunk all available space, increasing that number to 580. That number has since grown to 780 with the addition of an annex to the building.

"We hope that we won't have the overcrowding issues and that we'll be able to stay off the day we'll have to do some material expansion to accommodate prisoners," Herbert said.

E-MAIL: ldethman@desnews.com