Talk about exploiting an untapped resource. New legislation in Arizona would allow the state's Department of Corrections to not only impose a one percent charge on deposits into a prisoner's spending account, but also to impose a one-time $25 "background check" fee for adults who want to visit an inmate at one of the fifteen facilities that house state prisoners. Think that's bad. Not only does this fee apply to people simply wanting to call an inmate, but the original proposal would have applied the fee to children and babies. Yes, children and babies. Who in the absolute blue fuck does Arizona think it is, wanting to charge to run a background check on an infant, Homeland Security?
This legislation has led to a pair of lawsuits in the face of criticism over the state's scheme to try and plugs holes in a $1.6 billion deficit.
Yeah, and what a fantastic job they did with this idea, as it appears. Not only does the one percent off the top of prisoner spending accounts smack of state-sponsored shakedown, but the money is not even being used to pay for background checks in the first place.
The first thing right off the bat, this will wind up reducing the number of people who visit their loved ones and relatives in prison. A lot of people are already hard-pressed to afford a cross-state trip for a visit, and $25 extra in a lot of circumstances can be a dealbreaker. I'm not for giving prisoners much to begin with, but at the very least they should be allowed visits from their family. By essentially charging an admission, you turn the state's prisons into a sideshow, and it is more than a little asinine to not even comp the families of the "talent."
Barrett Marson, a yeshole for the Arizona Corrections Department, would not comment on the pending legislation, per the usual policies, but did say the department had received calls and letters about the fees, and there had been no complaints reported from the inmates.
Allow the cynic in me to flare up just a bit. What is the difference in the number of complaints reported versus the number of complaints actually made?
At least there was somebody willing to comment on the situation. Arizona Senate chief of staff Wendy Baldo not only confirmed the deficit-plugging intentions of the legislation, but confirmed the money was not going to background checks, but rather into a fund for prison maintenance and repair.
Are the background checks even being conducted, and if so, at what cost weighed against the sideways "Arizona Prison Building Fund" donations being squeezed from the families of state inmates? Sounds like a pretty good racket to me, if I were a soulless asshole, that is.
Middle Ground Prison Reform, an advocacy group in Tempe, Arizona, agree this is a racket, and have filed a pair of lawsuits, one on the background check fee and one on the one percent shakedown from the inmates.
I mean, with this precedent, how long before a private correctional company follows suit? Even worse, how long before a private correctional company devolves it into some sort of subscription or season ticket style of "service?" Save now, five visits for the price of four, and no payments until 2012. Those would be some fucked up holiday sales commercials right there...
Then again, maybe I got this wrong. Maybe if Arizona was to put the money to better use than repairing the prisons...say, maybe tracking down the soft-sided cooler with a pound of explosives inside stolen during a police training exercise at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport. Normally, this is where I would insert a joke about this being what happens when you miss rehearsals, but in this case, I still kind of have to ask, why practice in a busy airport with live explosives?
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