RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Doing hard time in Riverside County is about to get a little harder — at least on convicts' pocketbooks.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively approved an ordinance to require inmates in county detention facilities to reimburse the county for the cost of their incarceration.
"This will add a new dimension to our judicial system," said Supervisor Jeff Stone, who submitted the "Require Every Convict Occupant Reimburse County Expenses" — or RECORCE — ordinance.
"We have a duty and responsibility (to ensure) the county is reimbursed for costs borne by the county wherever and whenever possible," the supervisor said. "If you do the crime, you'll do the time and pay the dime."
Under the plan, convicts who spend a day or more in county jail would be required to undergo financial assessments to determine whether they have the means to repay the county for their time behind bars, which averages $142 per inmate per day.
County Counsel Pamela Walls stressed there would be no "debtor's prison" for individuals unable to pay.
Anyone jailed but not convicted of a crime also would not be liable for the cost of their detention.
Board Chairman Bob Buster questioned whether the measure, which is expected to be formally adopted by the board after a final hearing next week, would lead to any appreciable increase in revenue.
"Will we be spending more money to collect some of these bills than we capture?" he asked.
Stone replied that "a number people convicted of crimes ... have the financial resources" to pay the county. He cited "white collar" convicts and DUI offenders as examples, conjecturing that RECORCE could generate "millions of dollars a year."
In accordance with state law, reimbursements would fall behind other sentencing priorities, including victim restitution, fines, public defender compensation and state surcharges, according to the county counsel's office.
The Riverside County Superior Court Executive Office's Enhanced Collections Division recovered $50,458 in reimbursable costs to the county during fiscal year 2010-11.
Most of that money was obtained from probationers on payment plans, which numbered around 42,000 cases in 2010-11, according to the court.
The county Probation Department would be responsible for collecting the money, and all remittances would be deposited directly into the county general fund.
The board directed probation officials to study the impact and effectiveness of the ordinance after it has been in effect a year and report back to the board at the end of that period.
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