The proposal, S-2809, would require the Department of Corrections to establish and collect an annual fee from inmates. The fee established by the bill would be equivalent to the average cost to the department of incarcerating an inmate for one year.
“It now costs the state of New Jersey an average of $38,700 a year to house an inmate in the state prison system,” Beach said. “Given the current state of our finances and the burden already borne by our taxpayers, it makes sense that we tap into the assets of our prison population to help defray the cost of their imprisonment.”
The fee set by the bill is to be pro-rated for prisoners incarcerated for 334 days or less. The calculation of the number of days of imprisonment would include time served prior to conviction.
“The state conducts a pre-sentencing investigation of people convicted of breaking the law,” Beach said. “The determination of an inmate's ability to pay – their assets, liabilities and dependents – would be based on information contained in the pre-sentence investigation report and findings and orders of the sentencing court.”
The bill grants the commissioner discretion to waive or reduce the fee if a prisoner's financial situation changes subsequent to the preparation of the pre-sentence investigation report and the inmate is no longer able to pay the fee and is unlikely to become able to pay. The fee can also be waived if it would unduly burden the prisoner's dependents. The measure authorizes the Corrections Department to file a lien against the property of a prisoner to ensure payment of the fee. The bill would make the fees collected available for use in alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs.
— TOM HESTER, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM