Arizona Department Of Corrections Will Use Inmate Fees To Pay For New Prison Locks

Published: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 8:50am
Updated: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 10:25am

Arizona Department of Corrections Director David Shinn asked lawmakers Wednesday to sign off on a plan to use funds generated by inmates to help pay for new locks, HVAC and fire safety systems in state prisons.

Inmates pay a fee to a private company when they call friends and loved ones on the outside. Fees are also generated by the use of tablet computers and video kiosks. The department's share of that fee is usually between $8 and $9 million dollars each year.

The money is held in a special services fund established by state law to be used for "the benefit, education and welfare of committed offenders."

At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Capital Review, Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson) took issue with the proposed spending.

“We’re taking funds that are supposed to go towards furthering inmates’ opportunities, and we’re fixing facilities problems with it," Friese said. He said he worried that using the money for construction could potentially threaten any new programming for incarcerated people in the future.

Director Shinn told the committee that he believed the Department of Corrections was acting according to the statute.

While $500,000 is transferred from the special services fund each year to a building renewal fund, the Department of Corrections requested several million additional dollars be reallocated.

The Department of Corrections asked the committee to spend $4 million, nearly half the annual revenue for the fund, on the new construction in fiscal year 2020.

The special service fund money is usually used for programming, drug treatment, and legal services for incarcerated people.

The Joint Committee on Capital Review approved the department's request.

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