It’s no secret that cities, counties, states, and even the federal government are looking for ways to make up budget shortfalls. Not only is it not a secret, it’s all we hear about! We’re all impacted on some level, and some are impacted on more than one level. Unfortunately, those impacted are more than one level, are usually those we choose to ignore anyway.
I’m thinking about those in prison…Arizona prisons. Visitors to inmates in Arizona prisons now have to pay $25 to visit. My first thought was: Wow! Are they scraping the barrel now!
Now I realize that many can easily ignore this issue. After all, it doesn’t affect them and it can at least be said the state is addressing its budget shortfall, albeit creatively. Unfortunately it creates yet another barrier making it difficult to support a family member or friend in prison.
I was trying to imagine how it would be for 86 year-old Peggy to go see her stepson, now 52, but who has been in prison since he was 18. While visiting Peggy one afternoon, she asked me which prisons I regularly visited.
Peggy was one of my LOL (little old lady) parishioners who wore floral dresses, a scarf to keep her hair neat when she went out, and running shoes with athletic socks. The running shoes weren’t so much for a fashion statement (not!) as for comfort. Peggy didn’t drive and took the bus when it was too far to walk. Why would she be asking me about prisons?
It turned out that her husband had a son from a previous marriage who lived with them. Her husband suddenly died when his son was 17. Peggy continued to raise him, struggling with legal fees when he was accused of the murder of his friend while camping. Drugs and alcohol were involved and he has no recollection of what really happened that awful night. Once a month, Peggy gets on a Greyhound bus, travels 400 miles to see him, returning late that same night. No one in the church knows that Peggy has a stepson, much less a stepson she still goes to see in prison. Peggy lives only on her husband’s social security. Purchasing a round trip bus ticket every month is a financial burden. What would she do if she had to pay an additional $25 to visit?
What disenfranchised group will be next? I’d say seniors, except the bulk of Arizona’s population is probably seniors! It certainly won’t be snowbirds. Snowbirds are already big contributors to Arizona’s winter economy. Plus, they play golf. And it won’t be those who own guns, too many and too rich. So I guess it comes back to criminals’ families. Who said crime doesn’t pay?