Steamboat Springs An inmate can be ordered to pay $42.50 a day as a guest in the Routt County Jail for three square meals a day, lodging, television, clothing and personal hygiene.
In 1999, Sheriff John Warner drafted a policy in accordance with state statute that allows a judge to order inmates to pay for the cost of care while in the Routt County Jail.
In the second year since the implementation of that policy, the jail has collected $52,400 from inmates ordered to pay for costs associated for their time behind bars.
"That is substantial," Warner said of the money collected. "This is $52,000 that the taxpayers saved. That is a significant chunk of change we collected to offset cost in our facility.
"Crime does not pay in Routt County, but I'm taking the extra effort to recover the cost of these prisoners any way I can."
Every year, Warner has a budget in the hundreds of thousands to operate the jail. For 2001, Warner has a budget of about $250,000 for operational costs.
This budget pays $87,000 for meals and $75,000 in health care, inmate transportation to court, extradition costs, uniforms, education and professional services.
Prior to 1999, taxpayers were footing the entire bill to care for inmates in jail.
"I had noticed that some of the Front Range agencies were charging prisoners for cost of care," Warner said.
Warner looked into the issue and found a state statute that allows judges to order inmates to pay for the cost of care.
To implement the policy, Warner had to come up with a dollar amount in how much it costs to house an inmate at the jail per day.
"We came up with a cost in what we thought it took to take care of a prisoner per day," Warner said of the $42.50.
To calculate the cost, jail officials factored in food, personal hygiene items, uniforms and lodging material, he said.
With the policy in place, Warner leaves it up to the judges in Routt County and the 14th Judicial District to determine who pays for their time behind bars.
Public Defender Norm Townsend does not approve of the practice.
"Folks walk out of jail in deep debt," he said. "It compounds the problems they already have. My clients are poor. They don't have any excess money."