Pay $25 to Visit Behind Bars. Huh?

Pay $25 to Visit Behind Bars. Huh?

Visitors are outraged that a "background check" fee is being charged and used for building repairs in Arizona.

Published September 13, 2011

You may be charged a fee when seeing a movie or visiting a museum, but there is one fee that has people in Arizona furious: a fee for visiting an incarcerated person in prison.


Under a new Arizona state law, adults will have to pay a one-time $25 "background check" fee when visiting any one of the state’s 15 prisons. And where’s the money going? Toward maintaining ten of those state-run prisons.


Many Arizonans are not happy about the fee and are taking action. A prison-reform group recently sued the Arizona corrections department, calling the fee "unconstitutional," but corrections officials are responding by saying that the fees will insure the inmates’ safety.


"For me, it is not the $25 fee that is an issue," PJ Longoni, who already pays hundreds of dollars for toiletries, a television and legal fees for locked-up family and friends, told the Associated Press.  "It is when it is combined with the other costs of caring for an inmate, then it becomes a burden to me."


The law went into effect July 20 and since then, potential visitors have wondered why a background check would go toward building repairs. Others have worried that the fee would actually reduce the numbers of visitors.


Over the last 10 years, Arizona’s prison population has increased 52 percent. Although, according to U.S. Census data in 2000, African-Americans represented only 3.1 percent of Arizona’s population, they represented over 13 percent of those incarcerated.


Critics hope that the fee does not minimize or even eliminate family contact with prisoners that could improve their chances for rehabilitation post-prison.


To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.



(Photo: REUTERS/Bertrand Guay/Pool)

Written by Danielle Wright


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