Parolees and probationers will soon begin paying the state to keep an eye on them.
Beginning Jan. 1, the state will be allowed to collect a monthly fee of $25 from new probationers and $40 from new parolees. Officials will also be able to charge for drug and alcohol testing.
The fees will help the state's ailing budget and, officials hope, will teach responsibility to convicted criminals.
"No longer can the taxpayers . . . shoulder the entire burden for costs associated with criminal behavior," Henry L. Templeton, director of parole and probation, said in a statement. "It's time for convicted offenders to take some responsibility for their actions and their lives."
At the request of the Schaefer administration, the General Assembly this year approved the fee collections. The law applies to people whose crimes occurred after April 30, 1991, and who go on parole or probation after Jan. 1, 1992.
Maryland joins 28 other states that charge probation or parole fees. Judges can require criminals to pay the fees as a condition of probation, or the Parole Commission can order them as a condition of parole.
Officials expect to collect $500,000 between Jan. 1 and June 30, the end of the state's budget year. The program may bring in $3 million over a full year as more people begin paying the fees, according to Glen Plutschak, an administrator with the state Division of Parole and Probation.
"For people to make the assumption that these offenders are all illiterate and unemployable is wrong," said Susan Kaskie, a spokeswoman for the division. "A goodly portion of them made a mistake in their life they're trying to correct."
People on probation for drunken-driving offenses, many of whom have jobs, are the most likely to be ordered to pay the supervisory fees, Plutschak said. The drinking driver monitor program usually lasts 18 months to two years.
Felons leaving prison on parole are the least likely to be charged supervisory fees because they are the least likely to be employed.
The state will also be charging $1 a month for alcohol screening and $15 for each drug test, Plutschak said.
Although optimistic about the new program, Plutschak acknowledged it would add paperwork for an already understaffed division. "It costs money to raise money," Plutschak said. "It's going to take some time in administering this. But it will raise money to help balance the budget deficit."
The Division of Parole and Probation collected about $7 million last year in fines, costs and restitution from people convicted of crimes. Much of that was returned to victims of crime. The rest went to the state.