Massachusetts fining inmates? What?


Today the bay state’s House of Representatives pushed through, 106-51, a very interesting and curious piece of legislation .  If approved by the Senate, then inmates throughout the state can expect to be fined $5 every day that they are behind bars.

Though the funds generated are intended to help ease the state’s budget crisis, let’s play devil’s advocate by viewing this bill from the inmates’ POV.  Consider, if you will, the prospect of facing another 4 – 5 years in jail before your time is finished.  On top of having to deal with the social repercussions of having been imprisoned (which the Department of Justice points out increases the likelihood of recidivism), you now have to pay several thousand dollars (a little over $9,000 for a five year sentence) for having served time.  This new fee is also in addition to the fines that you have already paid or are in the process of paying, which were initially associated with the offense.   If this is what inmates with short sentences are facing, what about those who have much longer sentences, like life imprisonment?  Are you feeling scapegoated?

Keeping the DOJ’s official position in mind, do you think that this legislation should become law? Is this legislation possibly unfair? What is your opinion?

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3 Comments

  1. Good old regressive taxes. Brillant. You bring up a great point that brings further brings to light why this a bad idea. I think we’re on the same page here.

    Reply

  2. I welcome passage of the bill as I believe it will be struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States as a clear representation of excesive punishment. It seems there is no logic at all in the state’s attempts at balancing the budget while it seeks to use a defense-less minority as a scape-goat. I personally think a better solution is to tax these British Petroleum-Fannie Mae-type executives who have profited off of running our country into the ground.

    There is something else to discuss in all of this. There is no longer a criminal justice system which seeks to cultivate criminals back into society. The system has given up on adults as well as children. From now on, once you are a criminal-you will be there forever.

    Reply

    1. I’m not sure that this bill will get that far unless a civil/human rights group picks it up. I have do some more research, but now I’m curious to see how many other states have anything similar in their books. I’m surprised that the bill was proposed to begin with since MA is such a progressive state because from what I’ve already learned (and I’m by no means an expert but I’ve done research) it appears to be regressive.

      With the economy the way it is, I’m not sure the public would approve of more taxes (as we speak there is a petition to cut the MA sales tax in half to 3%) especially if they’re used punitively. What I find interesting is that several people that I’ve talked to about this want to see action taken against the big execs, but yet they, for some reason, don’t want to tax them.

      I won’t disagree with you about the state of our criminal justice system. It’s seen many changes over the years, and frequently oscillates between being punitive and rehabilitative. Research is mixed in this area, but from what I have learned the best results are gained when there is a combination of rehabilitative and punitive (but not excessive) programs. This combination seems to account for the weaknesses of both strategies.

      Reply

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