New proposal: forfeit dollars to visit felons
Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011 16:09
Can somebody call our governor and let him know about this? Here is a plan suffering from such "reasonableness and "practicality," I can hardly contain myself. In the state of Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a fabulous idea: have everyone forfeit their cash to visit felons in jail.
Brewer, along with a few men in suits, recommended to fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that would help balance their state's budget. Each person would have to "cough up" $25 to visit their incarcerated offspring, significant others, sister's cousin's friend's uncle's brother — you get the idea.
So, here's my query: could this work in Florida and is it ethical?
Without sounding patronizing, I think it's necessary to differentiate between jails and prisons. I thought they were both the same, including the interior decorating, but apparently they're not.
The most prominent dissimilarity between types of confinement would fall under who controls what. Jails are usually handled by the county; prisons are managed by the state. Florida does have six privately run prisons, but we won't go into that – they're just little ones with shinier bars.
First revealed in an article by AZFamily, certain lawmakers in Phoenix are pushing so a fee will be required by law for anyone going to visit an inmate in prison. The fee will be reasonable and would be about $25. Everybody, including next of kin will be subject to paying the tariff in exchange for visitation. There is also a proposal to start charging a 1-percent fee on any and all monies put into inmate bank accounts.
"The prison system costs the Arizona taxpayer about $1 billion a year, and visitation is a privilege," Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan said.
Now, before all the "goody two-shoes" types get bent out of shape with legalities and civil liberties, let's dissect this one before responding.
According to the Florida DOC, there are 144 prison facilities that are divided into major institutions: annexes, work camps, work release centers and road prisons throughout the state. The major institutions incarcerate 85.2 percent of the state prison inmates. These facilities incarcerate only those inmates convicted and sentenced to more than a year.
The Florida Department of Corrections is the third-largest state prison system in the country with a budget of $2.4 billion, just over 102,000 inmates incarcerated and another 115,000 offenders on active community supervision.
And yes, those numbers are prodigious. That's far too many offenders for our sunny state of Florida.
So who really does pay for our convicted outlaws? Why, you do. You, the honest tax paying and law-abiding citizen. Marvelous, pat yourself on the back. Oh wait! Here's the fun part: the invoice. How much is how much?
The DOC listed the expense to the state of Florida per inmate as "$19,469 a year, or $53.34 a day."
Yes – that's where your tax dollars are going. If only we could pump that kind of currency into our education system instead.
Truly, I think Brewer has drawn up an ingenious blueprint. Charge the visitors to visit. Why not? I can't find anything morally wrong with it. After all, is it not only fair to pass the convicted felons tab to the convicted felons?
Personally, I don't care if the felon's "bill" becomes a burden to them or their family members. They didn't seem too concerned when they "flouted" the rules and went "gallivanting" on their crime spree, now did they?
Truthfully, the only money I don't mind tendering is for death row. My tax-paying dollars are put to good use here; $40 is the maximum cost of that final meal.