BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Local law enforcement departments put people in jail every single day to protect our community. According to Raleigh County Commission Dave Tolliver, it costs about $50 every day an inmate is in jail.
“It is a tremendous burden,” Tolliver said.
The county is responsible for the cost of every inmate in a regional jail, every day until that person is either convicted or released.
“That’s everything from misdemeanor shoplifting, DUI, all the way to first degree murder,” explained Benjamin Hatfield, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney.
Once they are convicted, the Department of Corrections pays for their time in prison. However, those fees really add up. Just last month, Raleigh County paid more than $171,000 in jail fees, and that was under budget.
It is about to get much worse. Tolliver said tax revenue is down by $1.7 million for the last two months. That means they might have to look in other budgets to find the money for the jail bill.
“There would be less deputies on the road, law enforcement would have less resources, my office would most likely have less prosecutors. That would have a trickle down effect in regards to all county agencies and their budgets,” explained Hatfield.
Hatfield said he constantly works on ways to reduce the jail bill. He first starts by working on other consequences for misdemeanors, and people who cannot afford their bail.
“Maybe it’s a home confinement bracelet until their court date comes up, or maybe it’s reporting to the Raleigh County day reporting center for some remedial measures before their court date,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield also said he works to get defendants to trial as soon as he can, so they are sentenced sooner, and the state can start picking up the bill.
Tolliver said he spoke with other county commissioners who want to see change from legislation to help counties afford their jail bills.