Saturday, February 14, 2009

Let's roll

Budgets are stretched thin everywhere.

Will the Stimulus Bill just passed by Congress help wipe out the problems facing the Des Moines County Jail?

What about indigent inmates? Do they have the right to three squares a day?

D.M. County weighs charging inmates for toilet paper

Des Moines

County budgets and toilet paper have one thing in common: Every little bit helps.

That's why leaders in Des Moines County will consider an idea to charge jail inmates for bathroom tissue to help wipe away a $1.7 million deficit next year.

The decision was driven, in part, by a Board of Supervisors edict that gave department heads an option: Cut costs or face employee furloughs or layoffs.

The county's budget director, Cheryl McVey, said billing inmates for toilet paper could save more than $2,300.

"We have to find out if it's an allowable expense," she said Thursday. "It's certainly not going to balance our budget."

McVey said she didn't know whether inmates would be charged by the sheet, square or roll. The savings estimate was provided by the maintenance department at the jail, where officials did not want to talk about the idea or where it originated.

Curt Braby, Louisa County sheriff and president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, said he wasn't aware of any counties that have toilet paper fees on the books. He said inmates probably would choose to spend money from accounts established for necessities like shampoo and soap if asked to pony up for paper.

As for Des Moines County elected officials: "They've got budget problems, and they're looking for places to cut. But what do you do for the guy who hasn't got the dollar for the toilet paper?"