Iowa prison dumps idea of charging prisoners for toilet paper

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Faced with a $1.7 million budget shortfall, officials at the Des Moines Iowa County Jail in Burlington in February posed an unique idea for bolstering the bottom line: charge the prisoners for toilet paper. The measure could save the jail a couple of thousand dollars a year or more, according to the county budget director.

In an example of enlightened self-interest, however, the jail administrator recently announced that this idea has been tossed into the can in favor of trimming expenses elsewhere and seeking a new bond issue.

One can only imagine (or perhaps, try to avoid imagining) the disaster that would have befallen the jail had such a boneheaded measure been put into effect. I also have to wonder if Des Moines doesn't have the same annoying multitude of free newsboxes full of newspapers advertising homes for sale that proliferate in my downtown. If so, I'd think a guard could grab enough of those circulars on the way to work to serve the purpose without spending a cent.

Given the housing market, it would be refreshing to see these ads accomplish something useful. And while the prisoners might dream of Ultra Downy April Fresh, jail was never meant to be a four-star hotel.

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