While most states are dealing with budget shortfalls and thinking creatively about how to raise money to aid those deficits, Arizona has turned to the ludicrous. For the first time in the nation, Arizona has imposed a $25 “background fee” for visitors visiting inmates at its 15 prison complexes, angering civil rights groups and family members of prisoners. The state says that the money generated from this new fee would go to improving prison facilities, but how important are improvements compared to the psychological improvement of prisoners?
David C. Fathi, director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times that the costs of this approach would far outweigh the benefits. “We know that one of the best things you can do if you want people to go straight and lead a law-abiding life when they get out of prison is to continue family contact while they’re in prison,” he said. “Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”