Arizona To Charge People To See Incarcerated Family or Friends

The Arizona legislature has passed legislation that will now allow prisons to charge $25 for people to visit their family and friends in prison. It is a remarkably cruel law since many of these visitors are coming from low income families and have to travel great distances. Yet, legislators are pointing out that they originally wanted to charge babies and children as well but decided to be nice guys.


The fee is being justified as a one-time “background check fee” for visitors, but staffers admit that it is an effort to increase revenue at the expense of these families. Wendy Baldo, chief of staff for the Arizona Senate, confirmed that they “were trying to cut the budget and think of ways that could help get some services for the Department of Corrections.”

Prison visitation has an extremely positive impact on inmates both psychologically and socially. It maintains and strengthens family bonds that will be needed to keep them from recidivism and can weaken the hold of gangs and other bad influences. Now the state is going to tell tell families on assistance that in order to see their loved ones, each adult will have to fork over $25. The article below also details how people have had difficulty paying the fee in advance. Visiting a loved one can be a terribly traumatic experience for a family. Yet, Arizona will now be there to get its cut.

As someone who has worked in prisons for decades, I find this absolutely appalling. From the beginning of correctional systems, the one right that virtually all societies have afforded inmates has been visitation. To now charge for the right to visit is gratuitous and cruel.

Source: NY Times

53 thoughts on “Arizona To Charge People To See Incarcerated Family or Friends

  1. You have to be F*&)ing Kidding me, right? Since this is a State Action will it even pass the Rational Basis testing….From what I know, people that have “active warrants” generally do not openly avail themselves to the criminal justice system….

    There is just something inherently wrong with this concept….

  2. This is a case requiring hostage negotiators. By how much would you have to increase taxes on the Uber-Wealthy to cover this charge? 0.00001%? That’s too much! Ping the peons for the cash.

  3. I no longer am surprised by anything that comes out of Arizona. I should be but I am not. This is beyond sick. I too have worked in and around jails and prisons for much of my professional life. I understand all too well the importance of good morale among the prisoners. What too many people fail to understand that the more unhappy and disheartened the inmates are, the higher the risk for violent outbreaks. This affects the safety of both the inmates and correctional staff as well. Anybody remember some of the past prison riots? I have worked on cases where correctional staff has been taken hostage, seriously injured or killed by inmates.

    I suggest to anyone contemplating additional punitive measures on inmates and their families to think twice. Prisoners have nothing but time on their hands. They are capable of the most ingenious plots to both escape and seek revenge and the time to implement them. I would hate to see dead or injured prison staff because of this short-sighted legislation.

  4. Perhaps they could save a bit more money by getting the prisoners to guard themselves?

    Would you get a discount if you’re visiting more than one relative? Or perhaps, out-of-state ‘customers’ of the state get a 1-for-10 voucher, redeemable only for the convict-in-question’s next stretch (not the current one).

    This sort of stuff arrives in my in-box and I literally can’t believe my eyes ….

  5. I sued DOJ again for detaining me 3 times 5 months without a criminal charge, a bail hearing, an arraignment, a government prosecutor etc. Now they are claiming in two different documents that in 1995 they notified the public and the government of their intention to use the Joint Automated Booking System to arrest and detain people without a criminal charge. See Federal District of Columbia 11-cv-01032 Document 16, They are also claiming in two different courts that the US Marshals have wide ranging authority and that this allows them to detain people without a criminal charge if a federal judge signs a “civil bench warrant”. The phrase “civil bench warrant” is not in the Code of Federal Regulations and neither is any authority to hold people without federal charges but DOJ is claiming that federal Judge John D. Bates has given the US Marshals broad law enforcement authority allowing them to detain U.S. citizens (for months at a time) without a criminal charge when a private person convinces the judge that it is a good idea.

    I found an article about the Nazi’s Prisoner Tracking System and it is very similar to the United States Prisoner Tracking System. DOJ claims that anything that involves the Prisoner Tracking System cannot be the basis for legal action for damages because it involves broad ranging law enforcement authority not defined by statute.

  6. I suspect it’s going to get much worse in Arizona for every single citizen as this constant growth of inhumanity on the part of those in government eventually turns into a monster that can not be controlled.

    No one should be surprised when the state starts, quite literally, to eat its young.

  7. Little by little, the authorities in Amerikkka are clamping down harder, like the Brits did before 1776; the French monarchy did before 1789; the Russian czars did before 1917… When a critical mass of Americans has gotten to the point where they have nothing left to lose, it’s going to explode. Unfortunately, the gun-toters there will probably direct most of their violence laterally, rather than upward. But it’s still going to result in a nasty place to live even for the Corporate Lizard Overlords who push authoritarian ideas like this.

  8. I last drove through Arizona in the early 70’s. At the time back in NY TV was full of commercials selling land sites, at cheap rates in new communities. Out of curiosity I drove past a few and found ugly, desert scrub land and large road sign proclaiming this or that new community.
    I’ve no doubt those who bought there originally had a great return on their investment, but that to me was luck of the draw. It had to be a large amount of gullible people who bought that dream and their descendants who try to keep it alive by visiting cruelty upon those least able to endure it. Not a good place.

  9. I thought the whole point of prison was to both punish and reform people. This only ensures that the GANGS will have even more of a hold over families since they are the only ones who will be able to pay this. So any family that does NOT support the gangs will have to pay for all the expenses on their own, and those who support criminal activity will get unlimited visits! I can think of NO other measure that will ensure the loyalty and recruitment of people to criminal activity than this. INcredible! I guess one criminal gang in the legislature washes the hand of another gang.

  10. From the NYT article on the ‘background check’ fee:

    “Ms. Baldo said the money would not actually pay for background checks but would go into a fund for maintenance and repairs to the prisons.”

    They are not even pretending anymore, are they?

    Also, no word in the article on whether this fee would apply to an inmate’s visiting attorney, which would seem to open a whole other ‘right to counsel’ can of worms.

  11. The Arizona legislature ….in need of correction, or just showing us the preliminary impact of for profit prison systems?

  12. I have practiced “Inmate law” it is not a vested right to have inmate visits….The question comes down to, who has standing to bring this suit? I think the family has a need to see the family member incarcerated. But does it rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment?

    The family can come so long as they pay the fee…The log ins for inmates are already shared with various LE Agency’s… The person checking in is checked for warrants. They also have cameras outside to check on the folks not entering into the secure facilities. I had a client one time that went to put money in his friends account. He did not have a valid DL, when he drove away he was stopped for driving with a Invalid Ops…

    Unless AZ is unlike all other Jails/Prisons they already know who is there…This is known as an Association list….I kid you not…So the question comes down to who has the right to visit…and the state will tell you its not a right…it is a privilege…

    FYI, the Prison Magistrate once told me I was not welcome to represent the client that retained me. They had appointed one to represent them…I strenuously objected…as the person had a right to the counsel of their choosing…It was suggested that I had entered the system under false pretenses as they already had an attorney….and that if I represented them as retained it might increase the amount of time the individual is incarcerated….Never mind that I had met with him three times before the hearing…

    I just wanna offer that the system/prison I was visiting reminded you of something out of Shaw-shank….

    Because I know how the system works….I left and registered my complaint with the DOJ/ BOP and the Attorney Discipline Board…well…both were a waste of time…

  13. “I will not visit Arizona, nor knowingly buy anything from any merchant in Arizona. How about you?”

    That strategy is equivalent to burning down the hen house if a fox gets inside. Better than refusing to spend money, support the candidates running against the clowns that run the state if you want to enact change.

  14. I dont like this law nor the immigration law they tried. But there are prisons all over this country that restrict visitation rights as a form of punishment on unruly prisoners (including in ‘liberal’ wisconsin). So this statement is just silly…

    “From the beginning of correctional systems, the one right that virtually all societies have afforded inmates has been visitation.”

    Let’s stop the boring Arizona bashing. B/c of 2 stupid laws everyone ignorantly jumps on the bandwagon. i can give you ass-backwards stupid laws that are passed in all 50 states and by the federal govt.

    Arizona is an incredibly beautiful state that is a whole lot freer than most of the states i have lived. And if my job afforded it, would move back in a second.

  15. jerry,

    Ohio has some stupid laws too:

    -No one may be arrested on Sunday or on the Fourth of July.

    -If someone loses their pet tiger, they must notify authorities within one hour.

    -It is against the law for a woman to wear patent leather shoes in public. (Allegedly, this is to prevent men from seeing up the woman’s skirt in the reflection of the shoes.)

    – It is against the law for an Ohio grocery store to sell corn flakes on Sunday.

    -It is illegal to roller skate without first notifying the police.

    -It is illegal to throw a snake at anyone. (Apparently, this was a problem at one time.)

    But Arizona’s ability to codify stupidity is indeed special.

  16. Just kill everyone convicted of an indictable offence. Do away with prisons entirely. Do the crime, you die.

    A “final solution” to the criminal problem.

    That’s where we are heading anyway. Lets “just do it”. +5 points if you know who said that.

    *this comment is #sarcasm in case you did not get it.

  17. a holes

    they deserve every prison riot they get

    as far as not buying anything from arizona, what can you do, go to walmart and pour round-up on all their cacti?

  18. I love it! Make all the shitbag family members pay to visit their shitbag criminal family members. Perfect!
    I also love hearing all you bleeding-heart shitbag libs whining about it. Get a life..

  19. “I also love hearing all you bleeding-heart shitbag libs whining about it. Get a life.”

    Nightsky,

    Keep believing until one day the impossible happens and you get arrested for a crime you’re innocent of and you can’t make bail. Then someone on the outside who thinks like you, will be calling you and your family shitbags. Let hw who is without sin cast the first stone.

  20. GEO Group has annual revenues of $1.7 billion dollars. Doesn’t that cover background checks and maintenance? Ha, I smell Dick Cheney.

    A CCA run facility in Leflore County, MS where I had recently visited an inmate given lwop at age 14, was nothing more than a series of decrepit shacks; a big warehouse at the end of a dirt road used to hold people the cheapest way possible. Grim, depressing, dirty, damp, nightmarish place. It could have been an abandoned hog farm except for the letters CCA spray-painted on a piece of plywood above a gate. Maintenance? What maintenance? There was no grass, no lobby, no paved parking lot or road, visitation room had nothing but vending machines, a microwave, plastic lawn chairs and Formica tables.

    I made a promise to myself upon leaving that morbid place that I would not let this now 22 year old, WRONGLY CONVICTED CHILD die in that place. I can afford to pay a visitation fee, but most of the families I’ve encountered first at Walnut Grove and now at this hellhole, can not. Most inmates can’t even afford to make a phone call home due to the high cost of between $8 and $17 per call. That’s why cell phones are so popular among inmates, so they can talk to their families, not so they can order hits on gang members. Most inmates just want to talk to their loved ones. With the price of gas it’s hard for families to afford a visit to these facilities located in the middle of nowhere, let alone pay extra fees.

    Why are there so many imprisoned in this country? Why are most of them African American and poor? Why are the sentences so LONG!? Sixty years for a drug offense, with no victim? So much potential being warehoused in this country. At what cost? Certainly CCA, GEO are mining gold on the backs of people who have made mistakes, human beings, not hogs.

    Nothing suprises me in Arizona or in Mississippi where justice is a game, most effectively played by the wealthy and powerful.

  21. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    At which point Jesus was beaned in the head with a large rock.

    He looked out into the crowd and said, “You know mother, sometimes you really piss me off!”

  22. Mespo,
    that is an interesting anology that you make. The poor are now being chastised for not making enough money to pay Federal taxes at the same time countless corporations are paying little or no Federal taxes on profits in the Billions. The Right is recreating the poll tax by forcing people to purchase state ID’s in order to register to vote. I think it is a correct anology.

  23. In the 60’s LBJ came up with “The War on Poverty” only to have it destroyed by the Viet Nam War that drained away the money. Today we have a different war going a “War of Impoverishment” meant to return this country to the feudal age, with a nobility made up of Corporate Executives and scions of inherited wealth. There are different “fronts” upon which this general war is fought.

    They jail as many as possible through their “War on (low-level) Drugs (users)” and “War on Minorities”.

    Export jobs in their “War on The Middle-Class”:

    Ensure no worker representation in their “War on Unions”.

    Destroy small business ventures in their “Big Box Store War” and ensure the result with their “War on (US) Tariffs”.

    Exempt the Rich and Rich Corporations in their “War on Taxes”.

    Impose serfdom in their “War on Social Security, Medicare and Health Care”.

    Restrict voter rights and ensure money buys elections in their “War on Democracy”.

    And on many other fronts to numerous to enumerate. The most pathetic part of this is if was at its’ bottom merely greed that motivates them, we could understand it in economic terms alone. However, it is more than greed that motivates the Koch’s, Mars Family, Trumps, Bush’s and others. It is their gut knowledge that they would have been failures in this world if not for inheritance, their inability to accept their mediocrity and
    their need to deny it by lowering the living standards of everyone else, to make themselves feel special.

  24. I rather suspect that these “background checks” on visitors will be directly or indirectly performed by a private company. (Not to say that such a company will actually DO anything, but there will be a state contract and checks will be written to them and deposited.) I’m pretty sure that whoever gets that contract will have an interesting history of bribes, er, I mean “campaign and PAC contributions.”

    ——————————-
    Mike Spindell
    1, September 5, 2011 at 11:31 am
    I last drove through Arizona in the early 70′s. At the time back in NY TV was full of commercials selling land sites, at cheap rates in new communities. Out of curiosity I drove past a few and found ugly, desert scrub land and large road sign proclaiming this or that new community.
    ——————————

    I wonder what percentage of the population of Arizona comes from that self-selecting group of people who “bit” on these sorts of offers?

  25. a saying my mother and grandmother always said as we were growing up. The poor want to be middle class
    The middle class want to be rich
    The rich want to be GODS!!!

    Sound familiar? check into the rockefellers,rothchilds, royal family of england, bushes,kennedys, jp morganchase, duponts ,bloomberg and others

  26. The Arizona legislature is putting the state prisons in news reports once more. The Arizona government would like to use jail visits as ATMs. The prison visitor fee will go towards the maintenance fund for the jails. This is despite the fact that the charge is being called a background check. The families of inmates will need installment loans just to visit their families in jail.

  27. Speaking as someone who has a husband who has been sentenced to another 12 years in the state of Texas for a ‘actual physical control of a vehicle’ DWI in a vehicle that was sitting in a parking lot and belonged to someone else who was standing right there in the same parking lot! Unbelievable but true! I find this new law deplorable and wonder how long before Texas decides to implement it. They already expect family’s to foot all the bills and jump through hoops for a 2 hour visit on a phone through a piece of glass!

  28. Well, each prison has its own rules about how many visits each prisoner is allowed, and how and when those visits can happen. Before you can visit any prison, you need a document called a ‘visiting order’. This should be sent to you by the person you’re planning to visit.

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