It costs a lot of money to house criminals in New Jersey and taxpayers are footing the entire bill.

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A state lawmaker is wondering why prisoners aren't required to pick up the tab if they have the financial means to do so. Sen. Jim Beach is pushing a bill that would have convicts literally paying for their crimes.

"Hey, not everyone in prison is poor so based on their ability to pay they should pay for the cost of their incarceration," says Beach. "You have to look at the statistics. There are approximately 2,300 state prisoners and each prisoner costs us, the taxpayers approximately $40 grand a year."

This legislation would require the commissioner of the State Dept. of Corrections to establish and collect a fee each year from inmates in State correctional facilities to pay for the costs of their incarceration. The determination of an inmate's assets, liabilities and dependents would be based on information contained in an investigation report and findings and orders of the sentencing court.

"I think as a taxpayer that's something that most people would agree with," believes Beach. "I think we need to start taking a look at this. Why should we as taxpayers fund this entire bill?"

Innocent people on the outside work hard to pay for their housing, food, medical care and cable TV says Beach. He thinks it's wrong that they're also paying for convicts to have the same things because some prisoners have the cash to pay for it themselves.

The bill grants the commissioner discretion to waive or reduce the fee if an inmate's financial situation changes and the inmate is no longer able to pay the fee and is unlikely to become able to pay; or the imposition of the fee would unduly burden the inmate's dependents.

The senator is looking to enact such a law at the county level too. Beach also sponsors a measure to let counties to charge inmates for costs of incarceration and to place a lien to ensure payment.