Jail work release fee to increase

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prisoners in the Mower County Jail will soon need to pay more money in order to leave the jail for work release.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners increased the Huber Fee — the amount a prisoner pays each day to leave the jail on work release — from $15 to $20. Huber Fees cover the costs of jail staff processing and checking prisoners each day as they leave or return to the jail.

According to Commissioner Mike Ankeny, there hasn’t been an increase in the fee in a number of years, and the additional funds could offset part of the cost of one of the new jailers.

The high estimates show an additional $5 a day could equal about $50,000 a year — about the cost of a new jailer, Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.

Commissioner David Hillier expressed concern that the increased cost could take a sizable portion of an inmate’s daily wage if he or she earns near minimum wage.

According to Ankeny, inmates pay as much as $50 a day to leave on work release in other counties. Though the commissioners did not all agree on the issue, Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said it was a reasonable increase to match other increasing costs.

“With the cost of housing the inmates, and all the work and the benefits we have to give them, I think that $5 is very reasonable,” Gabrielson said.

Gabrielson said $5 more a day would be a modest increase compared to $50 a day paid in other counties.

County Attorney Kristen Nelsen noted that prisoners are in jail for a reason, and jail is not intended to be an easy or simple experience — it’s punishment.

County staff will review the $5 increase to determine when the change will go into effect.