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