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Arizona Prisoners Charged for Electricity

The 1995 Arizona legislature passed a law (AZ Rev. Statutes § 31-239) that requires the AZ DOC to establish a plan wherein prisoners will be charged a monthly "utility fee." The statute directs the DOC to collect a monthly fee, "not to exceed two dollars per month," from any "prisoner who possesses at least one major electrical appliance." The legislation is purportedly meant to "offset the cost of the department's [DOC's] utility expenses." But it is doubtful that the monies thus extorted from prisoners would even offset the accounting/clerical expenses required to collect the fees.

Arizona governor, Fife Symington, campaigned on a "get tough" platform. Arizona prisoners then had their hot pots, fans, CD players, tape recorders, personal clothing, and other items taken away. [See: Oppression on the Rise in Arizona, PLN Vol.5 No.8] Can you imagine doing time in a 6'x 9' concrete cage in the Arizona desert without so much as a small fan to recirculate the hot air? There is, of course, no air conditioning in Arizona prison cell blocks.

So after Symington and his side-kick, Sam Lewis (DOC Director) took fans, hot pots and tape players away from prisoners, the AZ legislature passes a law to charge prisoners an electric utility fee for possessing "at least one major electrical appliance." What "major appliances" do AZ prisoners have in their cells? Electric ranges? Washer and dryers? No, what the law euphemistically refers to as "major electrical appliances" are television sets -- Sam Lewis's electronic babysitters.

In past issues of PLN we have featured several articles that focus on the issue of televisions as a "management tool." The fact that the AZ DOC would take away virtually every other "privilege" (should a small fan, in the Arizona heat, be considered a "privilege", though?) yet they allowed prisoners to retain their TV sets, this speaks volumes for the value that prisoncrats place on television as a mind-numbing prisoner pacifier.

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