We thought we’d heard it all when it came to the crazy ways corrections departments try to save money. That is, until we learned today that the Arizona Department of Corrections is charging people money to visit their loved ones in prison.
According to the New York Times:
New legislation allows the department to impose a $25 fee on adults who wish to visit inmates at any of the 15 prison complexes that house state prisoners. The one-time “background check fee” for visitors, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has angered prisoner advocacy groups and family members of inmates, who in many cases already shoulder the expense of traveling long distances to the remote areas where many prisons are located.
An Arizona official confirmed that these “background check fees” will not actually pay for background checks, but are instead intended to make up part of the state deficit.
This policy not only places an unfair burden on those who wish to visit prisoners, but is bad for public safety. According to the ACLU’s David Fathi:
We know that one of the best things you can do if you want people to go straight and lead a law-abiding life when they get out of prison is to continue family contact while they’re in prison…Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Middle Ground Prison Reform has filed a lawsuit challenging the unfair policy.