Fee for visiting loved ones in prison in latest budget propsal

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PHOENIX – If certain lawmakers get their way, there will be a fee for anyone going to visit someone in prison.

The latest budget proposal that is part of Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget plan imposes a fee for visiting loved ones behind bars.

A family would be charged $25 for every person over the age of 8 to help pay for their background check.

Melissa, an inmate’s wife, says she drives two and a half hours to visit her husband and father of her two kids. He is in the middle of a four-year sentence for a drug charge.

“It’s hard for a family to survive incarceration," Melissa said. "They are wanting to make us pay a fee every year, which is just a way to make a profit off of families that are already struggling.”

According to the Department of Corrections, they spend $3 million of taxpayers' money every year running background checks on visitors. The new fee would reportedly raise about $1.7 million that could go toward a facilities maintenance fund.

“The prison system costs the Arizona taxpayer about $1 billion a year and visitation is a privilege," said Arizona DOC Director Charles L. Ryan.

"Frankly, taxpayers should pay for the maintenance and costs of state government buildings," said Donna Leone Ham with Middle Ground Prison Reform. "It should not be born from an identified, select group of people."

There is also a proposal to start charging a 1 percent fee on any and all money put into inmate bank accounts.