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JAIL INMATES MAY PAY MORE FOR STAY

Going to jail could soon get quite a bit more expensive in Hillsborough County.

County commissioners gave tentative approval Wednesday to charging new or added fees to people booked into Hillsborough County jails.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner proposed the idea as a way to create a permanent revenue stream for county programs that offer assistance to victims of crime, provide consumer protection and help children. Each area had been targeted for spending cutbacks next year, though commissioners have managed to keep them afloat.

In all, Beckner proposes:

-Increasing initial booking fees from $25 to $30, which he estimates would bring in as much as $1.7 million annually. That assumes an 80 percent collection rate, far greater than the roughly 50 percent collection rate now.

-Charging a new daily subsistence fee of $5, a variation of which is assessed in other county jail systems. That could raise as much as $5.6 million, again assuming an 80 percent collection rate.

-Adding an additional $50 daily charge for people serving time in jail who have been convicted of a crime, as opposed to those awaiting trial. The implications of that proposal are still being analyzed.

Given that many jail inmates are serving just under a year for misdemeanors, the latter fee could cost some inmates close to $18,000. Beckner said he didn't see that as overly punitive.

"In Hillsborough County, we're going to send a very strong message that crime doesn't pay, but criminals do," Beckner said.

Details on how the fees would be assessed and collected are still being studied. Beckner said he is working with Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee and the court system on how to make them work.

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