Our Voice: Thumbs up to Benton County Sheriff for billing former inmates

The Benton County Sheriff's Office is pursuing more than $1 million that's owed by hundreds of former jail inmates for costs they amassed while behind bars.

The department sent out almost 1,800 bills in a mass mailing in mid-January. By the end of the month, 65 payments totaling about $1,260 had been received.

It's a small slice of the total debt, which stands at about $1.4 million but it's money worth pursuing as a way to offset the jail's operating costs.

The bills seek reimbursement for money the county spent on things such as nurse visits, outside doctor visits, prescription costs and property damage -- costs incurred beyond the costs to house and feed inmates.

No one expects every former inmate to pay up but that shouldn't, and hasn't, stopped the county from trying to collect. Every dollar collected not only helps taxpayers, it also helps hold convicts accountable. Both are worthy goals.

Poorly manpersonaged

Thumbs down to political correctness run amuck in Olympia.

State government -- which is struggling with another $1 billion shortfall -- is using its limited resources to expunge words like dairymen, freshmen and penmanship from state laws in favor of gender-neutral substitutes.

During the past six years, state officials have engaged in the onerous task of changing the language used in the state's copious laws, including thousands of words and phrases, many written more than a century ago, The Associated Press reported.

Fortunately, the process is nearing an end. The state Senate on Friday unanimously approved the final installment of the multi-year effort to remove male-dominated language from the state code.

A 1983 state law required all new statutes to be written in gender-neutral terms, which seems reasonable enough. Why use "fireman" when "firefighter" will do?

But in 2007, a new law directed the state code reviser's office to do a full revision of existing code. It not only saddled taxpayers with a needless expense, but it also required such an inventive twisting of the English language that meanings are inevitably obscured. When it comes to law, which requires judges to interpret legislative intent, precision is essential.

A "first-year student" is not an adequate substitute for freshman. It also describes kindergartners and college graduates starting law school. "Handwriting" and "penmanship" have specific meanings that aren't synonymous. We know what a "manhole" is but aren't so sure about a "utility hole."

Has our Legislature been overrun by madpeople? With Washington in a seemingly permanent (perpersonent?) state of financial crisis, isn't there a better use for our limited resources.

Can you hear me now?

Thumbs down to former state Sen. Jerome Delvin, now Benton County Commissioner, for not sweating the small stuff.

According to The Association Press, he regularly posted cellphone bills higher than $180 a month during the past two years, with some much higher and one topping out at $382.75.

It reminds us of some of the bills our teenagers racked up before phone companies introduced flat rates. We suspect the same phenomenon was in effect -- someone else was paying the bill.

It's admittedly a small sum when it comes to state spending, but it's the kind of thing that irks the taxpayers who foot the bill.

"There's probably a cheaper plan out there," Delvin conceded to the AP.

Several, in fact.