Thursday, June 4, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XXVI): Fines to help defray jail expenses

The condemned (yet still in use) county jail is in the headlines again in the May 7, 2009, issue of the Newton County Times. The story reports that the Newton County Quorum Court is taking advantage of new state legislation that permits counties to levy an additional $20 fine from each convicted defendant. (The story implies that this is a one-time fine, not a per day fine). The funds raised will be used to defray the expense of incarcerating prisoners.

I see a couple of problems with this scheme. One is that I don't like the idea of trying to "get blood from a turnip" (to invoke a great Southern expression), particularly the impoverished types (turnips!) who are usually convicted of crimes in Newton County. (I am similarly offended by similar fines and court costs levied on convicted criminals elsewhere, fees that make it difficult for them to recover financially once they are no longer incarcerated). The second problem I see is that it's hard to imagine that this fine is going to raise very much money since only a handful of persons are convicted of crime each month in Newton County.

In other front-page news:
  • "Commercial historic district proposed" in Jasper, the county seat. It would encompass a 7-8 block area including the county courthouse and county jail (see above!), which are already on the state's registry of historic buildings.
  • "Swine flu shuns state, county"
  • "4-H Rabies Clinic to make rounds"

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