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Suit Challenges $25 Prison Visit Fee

PHOENIX, Sept. 7 (UPI) — An Arizona prison advocate is mounting a legal challenge against a new law charging a $25 background check fee to people who want to visit state prisons.

James Hamm of the Middle Ground Prison Reform group said he and his wife, Donna, are suing Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan over the law, which they said amounts to an unconstitutional tax and a “special law” barred by the Arizona Constitution, KTVK, Phoenix, reported Tuesday.

Hamm, who served a prison sentence of nearly 18 years beginning in 1974, said the fees, which took effect in July, are not actually being used to perform background checks, but are instead being deposited into the Department of Correction’s Building Renewal Fund.

“We’re claiming that this is a tax because it goes for the building maintenance in all the Department of Corrections and that’s a general tax expenditure,” Hamm said.

A Department of Corrections representative told The New York Times the funds are being used for maintenance because “funds for our buildings are scarce in this difficult economic time. A $25 visitation fee helps to ensure our prisons remain safe environments for staff, inmates and visitors.”

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