A night's stay in a new 268-bed lockup in southwest Missouri will get you uniformed pants and shirt, a jail bunk, and three squares a day–all for just $45. Stay a year, and you'll shell out $16,425, says the Kansas City Star. Like other facilities across the U.S., the Taney County jail is charging inmates. “Why should the taxpayers have to pay; they didn't do anything wrong,” says Sheriff Jimmie Russell. “Inmates committed the crime, and they should pay.” The county is billing only convicted, not pre-trial inmates.
As states and counties try to cut costs and pay the bills, some think the trend will only continue. In Georgia, legislators debated a measure that would allow state officials to collect up to $40 a day from “financially capable” inmates. This week, the City Council in Springfield, Or., voted to charge inmates $60 a day. In February, officials at the Des Moines County jail in Burlington, Iowa, drew national headlines after they reportedly considered charging inmates for toilet paper. This year, Maricopa County, Az., began charging inmates $1.25 a day for meals in the county jail. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for having inmates wear pink underwear and sleep in tents, said he could save $900,000 a year by charging inmates who could pay.