Arizona has, like, no money. Should it raise taxes? Cut services? Or—wait—what about this: Charge people $25 a head to visit friends and family members in its overcrowded jails?
If you know Arizona—and if you do, I'm so sorry—I bet you can guess which option the state is going with:
New legislation allows the department to impose a $25 fee on adults who wish to visit inmates at any of the 15 prison complexes that house state prisoners. The one-time "background check fee" for visitors, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has angered prisoner advocacy groups and family members of inmates, who in many cases already shoulder the expense of traveling long distances to the remote areas where many prisons are located.
If it seems like a "sort of bad idea" to you that the state wants to make up a portion of its $1.6 billion deficit by soliciting money from people who are more likely to not have very much (instead of—hey!—taxing people who do have cash), well, you're not the only one: Prison reform group Middle Ground is suing the state over the law, calling it an unconstitutional "special tax on a single group." Good luck with that, guys! But Arizona doesn't care much about this whole "constitutional rights" thing.
Arizona, seriously: Chill out. You already have the "Worst State in the Country" award on lock. You don't need to show off anymore!
[NYT; image of prison in Florence, Ariz. via AP]