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Arizona County Jail Rescinds Daily Fee for Prisoners’ Meals

Arizona’s Santa Cruz County Jail will no longer charge prisoners $2.00 per day for their meals. According to Sheriff Antonio Estrada, the pay-for-food policy resulted in prisoners abusing both the system and other prisoners. Since indigent offenders still received meals, some prisoners would keep their jail accounts empty while having family members or friends place funds into other prisoners’ accounts for their use.

“They would force the other inmate to receive that money, and then they would use that money for the commissary,” said Estrada. “They knew if they deposited money into their own accounts, they would be docked $2 every day.”

The County Board of Supervisors instituted the meal fee in 2007. On August 17, 2011, Jail Commander Lt. Roberto Morales told the Board that the problem of prisoners gaming the system was especially prevalent among repeat offenders who knew the fee policy and how to beat it.
“It does raise a security issue...,” he stated.

Supervisor Manuel Ruiz asked Morales whether prisoners had been assaulted by other prisoners for meal money.

“We have seen those incidents as well,” said Morales. “We were not [collecting meal fees] and we went ahead and made that request [for the Board to approve meal fees] to see how it would work out, and to bring in funds. However, after assessing the situation, we just determined that it’s not working out for us.”

Morales also told the Board that the jail had only collected about $150 a month in meal fees, and an increase in commissary sales when the fee is eliminated should make up for lost revenue. The Board voted 3-0 to rescind the meal fee.

Of course any thoughtful person would have realized that when you arrest predominately poor people, incarcerate them with no source of income and then charge them for the provision of basic human needs, there will be problems. Which is why imposing fees or co-pays on prisoners for food, medical care and other necessities is such a bad idea.

Source: Nogales International

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