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Idaho Jail Institutes Pay-to-Stay-Out Program

A jail in Canyon County, Idaho has taken the concept of pay-to-stay one step further by charging certain convicted prisoners to stay out of jail. First-time offenders with a non-violent crime who are compliant may have the opportunity to pay up to $15 a day to serve their sentence in the community rather than behind bars.

Most of the people participating in the pay-to-stay-out program were convicted of misdemeanors, such as driving without a license or petty theft. Those convicted of a sex offense, domestic battery and most other felonies, as well as known members of violent gangs, are not allowed to participate. The program saves the county about $50-$54 per day in jail costs, plus generates revenue of $15 per day per participant. The payments are placed in the jail’s indigent fund, with any surplus going to the county’s general fund.

There are several alternatives to serving jail sentences. The sheriff’s Inmate Labor Detail allows prisoners to work under supervision in community service programs. Such services include stereotypical chores such as picking up trash, but also involve working in the animal shelter, unloading trash at the county dump, shoveling snow from sidewalks, sweeping sand spread on streets in winter, and lawn care on government property.

Another program uses GPS ankle bracelets to track participants, who are limited in where they can go and excluded from some areas, with deputies performing in-person spot checks. A different type of monitor is used in a house arrest program in which participants must have prior approval from the sheriff’s office to leave home. There is also a work-release program where participants are held in a separate facility from the jail and allowed to leave to go to work.

There are around 225 people enrolled in the county’s pay-to-stay-out programs. That is also the approximate number of prisoners held at the Canyon County jail, which is overcrowded. The pay-to-stay-out programs, which have generated over $100,000 in revenue per year over the past few years, were implemented in part to deal with the jail’s overcrowding problem. However, some prisoners who are offered alternative sentencing options refuse to participate.

“I have some people who would rather be in jail than in these programs because they don’t like to work,” said Alternative Sentencing Coordinator Cpl. Eric Williams.
Then again, perhaps they just don’t want to pay for the privilege of performing slave labor for the county or being monitored by the sheriff’s office.

Sources: Idaho Press-Tribune,

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