A state Senate committee today decided the answer to that question is no -- for now, at least.
Senate Bill 1124, by Sen. Anthony Cannella,would require the courts to order prisoners who can afford to pay for part of their state prison or county jail stay to do so.
While current law allows a judge order someone sentenced to state prison to pay all or part of the "reasonable costs of the imprisonment," Cannella says that his proposal would result in more so-called "pay-to-stay" orders and alleviate financial burdens for the correctional system.
"I'm just suggesting that the one percenters that we talk about who have the ability to pay for their incarceration do just that," the Ceres Republican told members of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
The bill failed by a vote of 2-3. Critics complained that it would put an undue burden on families and inmates readjusting to life after bars, but Democrats voting no pointed to potential costs for the court system, which would have been required to set a hearing to determine whether the inmate would be able to reimburse the state.
"This is not a time to be imposing any additional requirements on our courts in my view," said Public Safety Chair Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.
Still, several Democrats sitting on the committee endorsed the concept of the proposal. Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, suggested commissioning a report on how often the current option to force repayment is exercised and looking into a pilot program.
'I think it's a great bill, and I think in a different time and a different place it would be very effective," Calderon said.
PHOTO CREDIT: Inmates wait in the Roger Bauman Facility for assessment at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center on March 5, 2012. Renée C. Byer, Sacramento Bee.