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Released inmates in Franklin County will begin paying sooner

April 05, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Prison inmates will have to begin paying their jail costs within three months of their release or the county will enlist the aid of a collection agency, the Prison Board decided Thursday.

That is just one change in the prison policy approved by the board. Warden John Wetzel proposed other changes, including:

n Make inmates pay a flat $10 fee a day for each day they are in prison. In the past, the fee increased $5 for each additional incarceration, but Wetzel said it would make administration easier to stick with one fee.

n The prison would take only 50 percent of whatever money an inmate comes in with and leaves with, to cover costs, rather than 100 percent.

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n Begin charging $3 for each disciplinary hearing.

Wetzel said he did not think the changes would have a big impact on the amount the county collects.

He said the prison averages between 10 and 15 disciplinary hearings a week, but said it will continue to go up as corrections officers have more contact with inmates.

Wetzel said that in the past the county billed the inmate for six months after release and at times may have used a collection agency.

He at first suggested eliminating this altogether, but after some discussion by board members they decided to send three bills and then use a collection agency that would be paid a percentage of the money collected.

"The selling point of the program was to instill some responsibility in these people. I'm not prepared to abandon the concept," Franklin County District Attorney Jack Nelson said.

Franklin County started charging inmates in the mid-1990s. Each inmate costs the county about $45 a day, Wetzel said.

All money collected goes into the county's general fund, he said.

The $10-a-day fee is for inmates in the main building. Prisoners on work release who live in the prison annex pay rent based on their wages.

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