County jail looking to require pay-to-stay for inmates

Saline County inmates may soon have to fork out some money for their stay, if a newly proposed ordinance goes into effect.

It's a two-part ordinance that covers medical bills and damage to the jail -- two areas that are costing county jails dearly.

The past year brought a 10 percent budget cut to all departments of the Saline County Jail. Add on growing costs of health issues and damage from inmates, and you've found the biggest headache for the jail's administrator. With his drafted ordinances, he thinks he's found a solid solution.

An ordinance mirroring one in Jefferson County could lock-up more money for the Saline County jail -- one that requires inmates to pay to stay.

"They shouldn't have to be paying for somebody that's in jail, tearing things up, and for going to the ER and having $3,000 and $4,000 medical fees," said Saline County Jail Administrator Lt. Don Birdsong about taxpayer dollars.

"It's just us trying to be good stewards of the money."

Being a good steward to Birdsong, includes making inmates pay for things like broken sprinklers, and $800 kiosks, which he said inmates have broken at least three in the past year and half.

Kiosks are used by inmates to purchase items with money their family has put on an account. Of course health care doesn't come cheap either.

"We've actually had people come in that have full-blown aids. We had one guy with full-blown aids, third-stage syphilis and had 30 days to live," Birdsong said, giving an example of inmates with health issues.

The health care ordinance includes articles like a $20 co-pay for services, and $10 co-pay for prescriptions not covered by insurance.

A true question that comes from all of this is how can you make these criminals pay? That's something still being worked on.

"Can we put a lien against social security, can we put a lien against their property, can we put a lien against if they have a job," Birdsong wondered. "So we're looking at different ways to try and get it."

The idea now is that these fines would go on the inmates account, and be part of restitution during their conviction, or when they leave the jail.