Another unbelievable tax on the poor has been held constitutional. Arizona started a one-time $25 fee for anyone wanting to visit a prisoner. At first, they claimed the fee was for doing a background check, but later admitted the money went in a prison construction fund.
No big deal, you think. It’s more than that. People in prison are overwhelmingly poor. Their families are poor. Prisoners should be encouraged to keep in contact with their families, especially their kids, in the hope that family units will be kept together and kids will be parented, albeit from prison, and less likely to become “part of the system” themselves.
So what do we do? Encourage visitation? Reward visitation? No. We charge families (kids included) a fee to see their family member in prison. No big deal, it’s only $25.
For most of us, $25 is not too much to spend, but most of us just do not understand the situation many live with. Let’s say a prisoner has a wife and 2 kids. And a mother. That’s four people who should be encouraged to visit the prisoner. The prisoner needs connection with his home, and the family needs to see their family member, especially the kids. But the state is now saying the family must cough up $100, on top of the expense of driving to the prison, and perhaps getting a motel, to see their family member. For many, many families, $100 is a tremendous amount of money. If it dissuades even one family from visiting someone in prison, it is too much.
Heck, it would be better policy to pay the prisoner $25 whenever family visits. It would do more to keep them from being institutionalized than most anything else. But no, we do just the opposite. Make it more difficult, even if just a little, to make them less likely to return to prison.
And the fee? It goes to building more prisons, more prisons to hold more people to pay more fees.
As I often write in these posts….unbelievable.