Here’s a twist on the cost savings angle that left me stunned and speechless this morning: The Arizona Department of Corrections plans on charging $25 for visiting inmates in its correctional institutions.
Beyond the obvious commentary – what a mind-boggling limitation on the budget of already impoverished families and friends of inmates, what an imposition on top of travel to distant locations, what a hindrance to rehabilitation and reentry by way of alienating inmates from their support system – this makes one think of Mona Lynch’s excellent Sunbelt Justice, which we reviewed here a while ago. Arizona has always been big on doing things on the tough-and-cheap. Like Texas, and unlike California, Arizona prisons were originally fashioned like farms and produced revenue based on inmate labor; both Texas and Arizona correctional officials used to mock the cumbersome, expensive rehabilitative apparatus ran in California.
Of course, since those days, the Arizona apparatus has grown large and cumbersome, and as opposed to California, very much enmeshed with Correctional Corporation of America. But the heritage is still there, which explains how the legislature can even come up with such ideas. As disturbing as the state of incarceration is in California, I doubt our legislators would initiate this idea. Mass hysteria, unmitigated punitivism, case-specific sentencing laws following redball crimes, yes. Cynical savings of this ilk, no.