When someone's guilty of a crime, we hear the phrase a lot, they need to pay their debt to society. But there's a debt society has to pay too with a real price tag. Katie Stockton's spent 3 1/2 years behind bars waiting for trial for a crime she admitted to a week ago, leaving her newborn daughter to die. It'll be another month before Stockton's sentenced. All that time in jail adds up with taxpayers covering the costs.
"I don't understand why it takes so long to get things done, but I know there are many processes." -says Rockford resident Donna Pitts.
Pitts, like every other Winnebago County taxpayer, foots part of the bill for Katie Stockton's jail time. Stockton was arrested in 2009. In 2004, her newborn, who investigators named Crystal, froze to death. Last week, Stockton admitted to dumping the baby on a rural county road and leaving her to die. So far, Stockton's spent 1,300 days in the Winnebago County jail. It costs $65 a day to keep an inmate there. That's a total of $84,500.
"It's in the hands of the prosecutors, the public defenders, the private attorneys and what strategies they use in court and unfortunately for us sometimes that strategy is to delay and push things out. When somebody comes to us we have to accept them, if they're suitable for incarceration, then unfortunately we have to keep them until someone else says we can let them go." -says Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers.
According to Meyers, not all of that $65 is directly related to the individual inmate. Most of it factors in the jail's mortgage and overhead costs. The only money actually spent on Katie Stockton takes care of medical needs and meals. While medical costs can vary, each meal served carries a $0.92 price tag and inmates get three meals a day. Plus, inmates do free janitorial work and help in the kitchen.
"It costs you to house inmates, but we get a good fair portion of that back every year through goods and services from the inmates themselves." -he says.
Keeping Stockton behind bars isn't the only bill she's run up. Citizens pay for Winnebago County state's attorney's salaries who have worked on this case for years. Their office doesn't keep a log of hours spent on any case, but we can estimate. There are three prosecutors handling Stockton's case, Joe Bruscato, Marilyn Hite-Ross and Pamela Wells. We got their salaries from the county website. Even if they all spent just one hour per week working on her case, in the last three and a half years, that costs more than $30,000, totaling more than $117,000. Sheriff Meyers says that number could be a lot higher if the jail was fully staffed.
"We came into this building staffed to house 800 inmates. We're down 35 corrections officers right now and we're up to 1,000 inmates, so if you do the math on that it would really affect the $65 a day bill."
We tried contacting Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato several times for a comment on Stockton's trial costs, he could not give us a statement. Bruscato says he believes discussing an on-going case is unethical.
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