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Wadena County Jail will become 'pay to stay'

WADENA, Minn. - The days of free room, board and medical care at the Wadena County Jail are over.

County officials there have approved a plan to charge inmates $20 per day room and board, in addition to medical expenses and other correctional fees.

The plan starts next year.

According to the plan, inmates will be charged for part of any day they are in the jail, including time served prior to an inmate's criminal conviction. Inmates will not be charged until they are sentenced.

Minnesota law allows county boards to charge offenders for room, board and other correctional services.

Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr said surrounding counties have experienced a reduction in medical and dental expenses after implementing a pay to stay system.

"A lot of times when an inmate gets to jail they feel that they can get their teeth fixed, will often seek medical attention," he said. "Knowing that these guys can now be billed ... for this is a huge benefit to us."

The sheriff's department budgeted $50,000 for medical needs for 2009, according to Carr.

The jail also has been charging for shampoo, aspirin, toothbrushes and other items for the past several years, and there has been a decrease in requests for these items.

"We didn't ask them to come into our jail," Carr said about the fees, adding that crime victims are victimized a second time when they have to pay for inmates' room, board, medical care and other expenses.

Sara Hacking is a reporter for the Wadena (Minn.) Pioneer Journal, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.