The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, May 12, 2005  

Do Not Pass Go
Oh, But Wait, That’ll Be Fifty Dollars

I don’t know, maybe I should wait to let someone more expert, someone like TalkLeft’s Jeralyn Merritt, offer more informed commentary than I can, but still, this report, from the Associated Press (as carried in the May 11 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Inmates Object to Visit Fee”) sounds incredible to me:

Blair County[, Pa.,] inmates must pay a $50 fee if they want to visit their children, and the new policy has angered jailed parents.

The fee covers the cost of transporting prisoners two blocks from the Blair County Jail to the county courthouse, where the visits take place, and the cost of paying two sheriff's deputies [to] attend the visits, Sheriff Larry Field said.

The fee, which Field instituted last month, also cuts down on frivolous visits, he said.

Forty prisoners, who have a total of 72 children, voiced their opposition to the fee in a letter they sent to the Altoona Mirror newspaper.

“How on God’s earth can they make their own law, and for people with no money?” inmate Lisa Whitehead wrote in the letter.

The jail’s warden said he was considering other ways to pay for the cost of the visits.

I guess I’m just sitting here wondering what exactly is meant by the term “frivolous visits.” And just how often such purported frivolity actually occurs. You know, in the real world.

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