The news these days, especially from prisons, are so outrageous they far outdo anything one could invent. Take this astounding story from CorrectionsOne:

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief payments have been sent to people behind bars across the United States, and now the IRS is asking state officials to help claw back the cash that the federal tax agency says was mistakenly sent.

The legislation authorizing the payments during the pandemic doesn’t specifically exclude jail or prison inmates, and the IRS has refused to say exactly what legal authority it has to retrieve the money. On its website, it points to the unrelated Social Security Act, which bars incarcerated people from receiving some types of old-age and survivor insurance benefit payments.

You’ll have to read the whole story to get a full grasp of the inanity, so please click the link. I will only add this: In Chapter 6 of Cheap on Crime I talked about the increasing tendency of prisons to monetize basic services they provide, such as haircuts, food, and healthcare–not to mention ridiculous pay-to-stay fees that they place as liens on people’s post-incarceration earnings. Prison is not a place you go to voluntarily, obviously, which you’d think placed an obligation on the state to feed, clothe, and treat you; nonetheless, many states charge their prisoners medical co-pays (if you’re just finding out now that prisoners have been making co-pays for their medical treatment, you’re not alone.) I referred to this progression in the imagined status of prisoners as the shift from ward to burden to consumer. Indeed, if you were to just follow the money, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no incarceration at all: people pay hotel fees for their beds, co-pays for their health insurance, and the like, all from their lavish earnings or from their future earnings (which promises that their reentry will be a bag o’laughs.)

My initial thought about the stimulus brouhaha is this: if we’re all supposedly real consumers in the real world, who pay for our lodging, healthcare, and services–regardless of whether we happen to be in prison or not–why don’t we all get a stimulus check? Ask your government. And add this to the list of matters you address in November when you drop your ballot.

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