FLORIDA CRITICIZED OVER NEW $4 MONTHLY FEE ON INMATE ACCOUNTS

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From: Britta Slopianka
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Sent: Monday, August 02, 2004 2:46 PM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Florida criticicized over new $4 monthly fee on inmate accounts
 

Posted on Mon, Aug. 02, 2004=20

Florida criticicized over new $4 monthly fee on inmate accounts
 

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Prisoner rights advocates are criticizing the state for its new $4 monthly fee on inmates' spending accounts - a fee that is charged even if a prisoner has no money.

Hannah Floyd, the wife of a death row inmate, and leader of the Florida Death Row Advocacy Group, said the fee is unfair, because it penalizes families and charities that contribute to inmate banking accounts. The fee, which prisons began collecting Friday, will generate $3.5 million annually for the state.

"The men are upset. Some of these guys are on a shoestring budget, trying to make it with close to nothing. If you have $10 a month to get by on and the state takes four, your whole budget totally collapses," Floyd said Monday in an e-mail.

All inmates at Florida's 56 prisons are required to have an account whether they shop at the canteen or have any money. Money gifts received by the inmate are deposited in the account as well as any money a prisoner might earn for working in prison industries. The inmates can then use the accounts to buy toiletries, such as deodorant, junk food, and some clothing, such as tennis shoes, not provided by the Florida Department of Corrections.

Prisoners are prohibited from carrying money or receiving goods from outside the prison.

The fee was tacked on as a final paragraph of a bill dealing with the Correctional Privatization Commission and approved in an unanimous vote of the Legislature earlier this year.

State Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, who sponsored the provision calling for the automatic deduction from inmate accounts, said he did so at the request of the Department of Corrections so it could recoup the fees it spends maintaining the inmate accounts.

"It's like the same fee you and I pay for bank service charges," said Brummer, who serves on the powerful Appropriation and Rules committees.

Brummer believes inmates should pay more of the cost of their care and doesn't buy the argument it is unfair to prisoners and their families.

"I have a tough time being sympathetic to that issue. Taxpayers spend a lot of money to make sure they pay their debt to society," Brummer said.

But Peter Siegel, an attorney with the Florida Justice Institute, said a lawsuit filed July 23 in Tallahassee is challenges the law because it was included in a bill containing more than one subject. The institute also believes the fee is unfair.

"There is an awful lot of prisoners who don't have any money," he said.

The suit asked for an immediate hearing, but Siegel said attorneys still have not been given a hearing date in Circuit Court in Leon County.

Inmates who do not have any money in their inmate accounts will still be charged $4 a month, said Sterling Ivey, a Department of Correction spokesman. A lien will be placed on the account and inmate will have to pay the late fees before new money paid into their account can be used.

The department will not go after an inmate when he leaves prison for the amount of money he owes and it will not be deducted from the $100 given to inmates leaving prison. However, if an inmate returns to prison, his account will show the amount he previously owed.

Source: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/state/9302834.htm?1c

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