Pay Your Way!



By: Jeremy Alford

The regular legislative session will convene March 31 and must end no later than June 23, but lawmakers already are filing some interesting bills. Rep. Damon Baldone, a Houma Democrat, will push legislation to force state prison inmates to use all or part of their wages earned through work-release programs to cover the entire cost of their boarding. His House Bill 35 would direct the money to the local sheriff’s office or the appropriate agency responsible for housing the inmate — even if it’s on the state level. Under current law, money that inmates earn through work-release programs can be used to pay for their “room, board, clothing and other necessary expenses,” but there’s no threshold provided in the law. Baldone’s proposal would require that the money “cover the entire expenses” of boarding the inmate. Presently, part of the cash inmates earn can be directed toward paying off any legal judgments that might be pending against them, or it can be sent off to family to support an inmate’s dependant, whether it’s a child or an aging parent. The program usually allows low-level offenders to hold real jobs providing realistic wages. In some cases, if there is any money left when an inmate is released, it goes with him. Baldone’s bill has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee. 

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