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Connecticut Prisons Begin 10% Deductions of Prisoner Monies

The Connecticut Department of Corrections (CDOC) has put into effect a new state law that creates savings accounts for prisoners. The new law, which took effect July 1, 2007, allows CDOC to automatically deduct 10 percent of any funds that are deposited to a prisoner?s commissary account.

The law is touted as a way to reduce recidivism. ?The savings account is a great idea because the re-entry phase is very important,? said state Rep. Michael Lawler. ?Obviously, the vast majority of people are leaving prison with nothing.?

The deduction allows a prisoner to save a maximum of $1,000. After reaching that threshold, the CDOC will continue to deduct 10 percent of all monies the prisoner receives, but deposit it into the State?s general fund to reimburse the state for costs of incarceration.Apparently the notion of reentry and preventing recidivism maxes out after $1,000.

Critics contend most prisoners will never be able to save $1,000. The pay in CDOC prisons ranges from 75 cents per day to $1.75 per hour. ?If you could come out [with] $1,000, it just sounds like you?d have to be in there for years,? says former prisoner Janette Rodriguez.

The question arises of what prisoners with the maximum amount would do with the money. Because most do not have proper identification, it would be difficult to establish a bank account. One former prisoner thinks releasees with that type of cash may squander it on drugs. ?Am I going to stay out of trouble? That?s basically the thing,? says Linda Anthony, who was dropped onto the streets in 2002 with no money upon release from prison. ?Will I go back to this lifestyle? Can I deal with this? It?s not the easiest when it?s what you?ve done for the last few years.?

CDOC is looking into creating actual savings accounts for prisoners, which ?would be significant in having them develop budgeting skills,? says Deborah Rogalla, resettlement manager at Community Partners in Action. But if the prisoners cannot spend the money while imprisoned it is difficult to see what budgeting skills would be developed. CDOC Commissioner Theresa Lantz, who pushed the law through the legislature says, ?We?ve still got a ways to go.? So do the prisoners trying to save money at such low wages.

As a practical matter, this is yet another punitive scheme that further impoverishes prisoners under the guise of ?helping them?. If the real goal were to assist prisoners upon release then 10% of all money seized by the government for a post release savings account, plus accrued interest, would be held for the prisoner until release, not just the first $1,000.00. In the real world, how far does $1,000 go for people getting out of prison who need housing, clothes, food and work? Moreover, it also ignores the plight of lifers who face little or no likelihood of release.

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