Missouri to charge fee for parole, probation

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The law allows the state to charge anyone under its supervision up to $60 a month.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Tens of thousands of people placed on probation or parole in Missouri soon could be charged a monthly fee to help cover the costs of their supervision.

Gov. Matt Blunt signed legislation Tuesday authorizing the new fee, which is expected to eventually generate about $7 million a year for the state.

The legislation also makes it a felony for prisoners to spit, urinate or dump bodily fluids on people -- a reaction to conduct that prison officials say was not being deterred by Missouri's current misdemeanor charges.

Missouri has 67,353 people on probation or parole, plus an additional 30,132 in prison.

The state already charges $5 a day for offenders on electronic monitoring and $10 a day for inmates in community release centers who have jobs. The new law, effective Aug. 28, allows the board of probation and parole to charge anyone under its supervision a fee of up to $60 a month.

Corrections department director Larry Crawford suggested the new fee after Blunt asked him to come up with ways to reduce the department's costs. The money will be used to pay for such things as substance abuse and mental health treatment, electronic monitoring and job placement services.

"It just makes sense that offenders should have a hand in paying for the services they receive," Blunt said.

The board has discretion to set the fee according to a person's ability to pay, or to waive it altogether.

Thirty-seven other states already authorize similar fees, according to a November survey by the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. Illinois, for example, charges $25 a month to people on probation. Iowa charges a one-time fee of $250 for each offender on probation or parole.

"It's a common practice across the country, and becoming more common as budgets struggle," said Carl Wicklund, executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association. "The $60 is probably right in line with a lot of other states."

In some states, the fees don't necessarily end up enhancing services to offenders, because legislators simply reduce other funding to offset the new fee revenue, Wicklund said. States also seem to have better success collecting the fees when the money stays with the probation and parole division, as opposed to flowing into general revenue, he said.

The Corrections Department could not provide figures Tuesday on the number of incidents in which prisoners exposed guards, visitors or other inmates to bodily fluids.

Current law made it a misdemeanor -- punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine -- for inmates to cause corrections employees to "come into contact with blood, seminal fluid, urine or feces."

The new law adds saliva to the list and expands the targeted victims to include prison visitors or other inmates. The enhanced crime would be punishable by up to four years in prison. If the offending prisoner is infected with the virus that causes AIDS, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, then the punishment can include a seven-year prison sentence.

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