Jail fee hike makes sense

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How much does it cost to keep a criminal incarcerated? Well, for the city of Ironton the answer may soon be 40 percent more than it was a month ago.

But, as much as it may become a burden for city officials, we support the plan of the county commissioners to increase the daily rate the city pays the county from $40 to $55, marking an increase for the first time in more than a decade.

Ironton, along with nearly every other municipality in Lawrence County has had a long-standing housing agreement with the county where prisoners charged with municipal crimes can be detained in the Lawrence County Jail. Cities, like Ironton, do not pay the county for prisoners jailed for violating state statutes, only for those in jail for municipal code violations.

And the reality is that the cost of housing prisoners — from medical bills, food expense, general utilities, staffing requirements and more — continues to increase at alarming rates. Not to mention the fact that the jail built to house 50 inmates often has more than 20 more, with the overflow inmates going to Scioto County, costing the county as much as $300,000 a year.

Ironton is certainly contributing to this jail crunch.

As the county continues to struggle with financial concerns, this is a smart move on the part of the county commissioners to adjust something that was likely not even paying for itself.

But, ultimately, spending this extra money is a good problem to have for the city and one that elected officials shouldn’t fret over too much because it means that alleged criminals are off the streets and behind bars.