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Swartz proposes county jail fee

The Vice President of the County Commissioners says a $10-aday fee charged to those locked up in the Washington County Detention

The Vice President of the County Commissioners says a $10-aday fee charged to those locked up in the Washington County Detention

October 10, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioners Vice President Paul Swartz said he wants the county to start charging those locked up at the Washington County Detention Center $10 a day.

The money from the boarding charge could fund other public safety expenses or projects, such as a central booking facility for area police departments, Swartz said Tuesday.

"We give a free ride to the prisoners," Swartz said. "Somebody has to pay for that, and it shouldn't be the taxpayers."

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Swartz pitched his plan at a recent candidates' forum held by the Washington County Sheriff's Department, an idea that got him a standing ovation, he said.

"But you have to realize I was preaching to the choir," Swartz said.

The plan has support from other government officials.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said state lawmakers would have to approve the charge.

"I would not oppose it if we could collect that money and recoup some of our losses," Snook said.

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, said Swartz's plan is a good idea.

"I don't know if other jails in Maryland do it, but that doesn't mean we can't try it in Washington County," Shank said. "I think it's a great idea, and I'd be happy to work with the commissioners on it."

Snook said he'd also like to see the jail's home detention program expanded to bring in additional funds for public safety. He said the home detention program charges fees to a limited number of prisoners who serve their sentences in their homes and continue their employment.

"Even though we're not collecting money for housing, we're now charging to allow them to go home," Snook said.

That program generated $62,740 in 2001, according to the Sheriff's Department. The detention center averaged about 350 prisoners a month in 2001 and operates on a budget of about $6.3 million.

Sheriff Charles F. Mades said he didn't know enough about Swartz's plan to comment but that some jails in other states charge boarding fees.

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