BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Published: 16 November 2011 11:21 AM

Anyone convicted of a crime and sentenced to Riverside County jail will soon have to pay for their stays in the lockup.

Riverside County supervisors gave their final approval Tuesday to a measure aimed at recovering the $142.42 per day it costs to keep someone behind bars.

Although authorized by state law, the county ordinance may be the first of its kind in the state and one already being watched closely by other counties, said Curtis J. Hill, a legislative representative with the California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Counties across California are struggling with ways to fund jail operations and house an influx of new inmates as a result of the state’s public-safety realignment plan.

Under the state program, low-level offenders who would normally go to prison now will serve their sentences in county jails.

“We are going to be taking a look at it,” Hill said Wednesday of Riverside County’s ordinance. “It is so important now with realignment that the counties have the necessary funds to keep ongoing, consistent funding.”

Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, said officials there also will watch how the Riverside County measure works.

But at this point, San Bernardino County has no plans to seek a similar fee, she said.

“We actually believe it is an impractical mechanism for routine cost recovery,” Bachman said. “Most defendants have a very limited ability to pay.”

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