Tennessee Jail Considers Charging for Toilet Paper, Underwear
by Christopher Zoukis
On August 19, 2013, commissioners in Anderson County, Tennessee approved a resolution authorizing an expansion of pay-to-stay fees at the county jail. The resolution included a $50 daily fee for prisoners serving misdemeanor sentences, the removal of the existing $500 fee cap, and charging detainees new fees for items such as toilet paper, soap, bras, underwear, towels and other items.
The resolution, drafted by the county’s law director, Jay Yeager, was passed uncontested by the commissioners. The county recouped more than $100,000 through daily jail fees in 2012, which led to an interest in generating additional revenue from prisoners.
Under the resolution, prisoners can be charged for a variety of things, including pants ($9.15); shirts ($7.59); female gowns ($6.90); underwear ($0.75); female underwear ($0.71); bras ($1.72); socks ($0.72); shoes ($3.26); towels ($1.15); wash rags ($0.13); coats ($24.65); mattress covers ($5.40); blankets ($6.26); toothbrushes ($0.04); toothpaste ($0.05); deodorant ($1.15); soap ($0.03); toilet paper ($0.29); razors ($0.04); and sanitary napkins ($0.05).
The notion that prisoners may be required to pay for toilet paper made national news, with TIME magazine running a story on the resolution, noting, “Anderson County is only the latest in a long line of cash-strapped municipalities to levy fees to help fund their criminal-justice systems.”
Jail detainees who are indigent would not be denied clothing or hygiene items due to their inability to pay, but those who have funds on their jail trust accounts could be charged the fees as well as co-pays for medical, dental, substance abuse and educational services.
According to Yeager, any fees owed “would not be held over prisoners’ heads,” meaning they would not be used as a means to keep them in jail or to revoke terms of probation or community supervision due to nonpayment.
Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank had requested a 30-day delay so the fee policies could be researched to determine if they were constitutional, saying she thought they “may go a little too far.” The commissioners declined her request.
However, while the county commission approved the resolution authorizing the fees, Anderson County chief jailer Avery Johnson told PLN in an August 5, 2015 interview that the jail had declined to charge fees for clothing or hygiene items, including toilet paper. He said it would be too hard, for example, “to keep up with whose roll of toilet paper this is.”
Sources: www.knoxnews.com, http://oakridgetoday.com, TIME magazine
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