Arizona Charges $25 to Visit Prisoners
Fee will cost state more in long run, accuse critics
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2011 6:38 AM CDT
A Turtle Dove rests on the barb wire on the fence around a jail in Phoenix, Arizona.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – If you want to visit someone in prison in Arizona, it's going to cost you $25, in a one-time "background check fee" believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, reports the New York Times. But prisoner advocacy groups call the fee "mind-boggling," saying that such a fee could ultimately increase crime rates. “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,” said a prison expert at the ACLU. “Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

The fee was designed in part to offset prison costs, as Arizona faced a $1.6 billion deficit at the start of the year, and the Department of Corrections was not getting the $150 million it said it needed for building maintenance to keep the prison system safe and operating properly. But critics say the fee is a bad idea, born "out of sheer financial desperation." “This was a scheme—in my mind, a harebrained scheme—to try to come up with the money,” said a retired judge who is now the leader of a prison reform group.