Families of Arizona Inmates Must Now Pay to Visit Loved Ones
Your Black World reports
New legislation in the state of Arizona now requires that all adults pay $25 to visit inmates in any of their 15 prison complexes. The “background check fee” is the first in the nation, and has angered civil liberties groups, who argue that the families of inmates are already being asked to shoulder an enormous economic burden. They lose the income of the relative who has been incarcerated, they must pay a large expense in order to visit the relative, and loved ones are also expected to work for the state for sub-standard wages.
David C. Fathi, Director of the National Prison Project of America, said that the fee is “mind boggling.” He also says that such fees could threaten public safety.
“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,” he said. “Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
One inmate’s sister said that with the family already being out of state, the cost is going to make it even more difficult for them to see her brother.
“What will happen is that people will just stop visiting?” She asked, noting that most inmates “live” for visits from relatives.
Wendy Baldo, chief of staff for the Arizona Senate, said that the fee was designed to make up for the $1.6 billion budget deficit being faced by the state of Arizona.
“We were trying to cut the budget and think of ways that could help get some services for the Department of Corrections,” Ms. Baldo said. She also said that the department “needed about $150 million in building renewal and maintenance and prior to this year, it just wasn’t getting done and it wasn’t a safe environment for the people who were in prison and certainly for the people who worked there.”