Let's stop feeling sorry for criminals in Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Let's stop feeling sorry for criminals in Arizona

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Michael “Winey” Weinstein can be heard every Sunday evening on The Mike&Winey Show on News Talk 92.3 KTAR from 5-7 PM. (www.mike&winey.com).

Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 4:30 am | Updated: 12:20 pm, Fri Sep 9, 2011.

Once again, Arizona is making headlines and, as usual, it has to do with people breaking the law. The uproar over SB 1070 taught us that as law-abiding citizens, we are supposed to feel sorry for people sneaking into this country illegally. Once again, they are breaking the law and it is hard to feel sorry for people engaging in criminal behavior.

Now, we are supposed to feel sorry for inmates and their adult visitors who come to visit them because the Arizona Department of Corrections is charging visiting adults a one-time $25 “background check” fee.

We are to feel sorry for them because this only adds to the expenses they already bear by having to travel some of the long distances to the remote prison complexes in Arizona. They claim that it is unfair and unconstitutional since a portion of the money collected is going toward prison upkeep, repairs and modifications.

They have even gone as far as filing a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against the state’s policy.

First, they are visiting people who have been placed in prison, because they broke the law. Why should I feel bad that they have to pay a $25 fee? I didn’t break the law. I am not one who is burdening taxpayers by having to be disciplined for lack of discretion and/or self control.

Donna Leone Hamm, one of the plaintiffs and executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform Inc., told the Arizona Republic: “We’re just tired of prisoner families being used as cash cows. It’s the responsibility of state government to pay for the maintenance of their buildings.”

Really? Let’s get something straight. We as taxpayers are tired of being used as cash cows to fund other people’s incarcerations. Why should any portion of my family’s income have to go to fund someone else’s criminal activity?

Unfortunately, that is our reality. We have people in this state who show no regard to their fellow Arizonans and commit crimes against them... us. Therefore, we have to build and maintain prison facilities to incarcerate these inconsiderate people. We have to pay for their indiscretion. So, why shouldn’t their families share some of the financial burden?

In fact, when the “background-check” fee was introduced by Gov. Jan Brewer in January, it was originally intended to apply to all visitors every time they visited an inmate. I actually like that idea better.

David C. Fathi, director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, has called the fee “mind-boggling.”

What’s “mind boggling” is the fact that the fee has been modified to a one-time fee only. Its “mind boggling” that anyone would oppose the concept of accountability. Our state faced a near $1.6 billion deficit at the beginning of the year. The fees were designed to help reduce that deficit. One of the reasons we have such a high deficit is the fact that we have to provide housing, meals and health care for criminals. Let them and their families pitch in. And, really... $25?

Leone Hamm’s attitude is also a great representation of what is wrong with our nation. Everyone has an entitlement attitude. She feels that she should have the right to visit an inmate on our dime. How about holding them responsible for their actions? How about stop complaining about contributing to our enormous debt that we are obligated to pay in their names?

Are you tired of paying the entire tab for everyone else’s warped sense of reality and what they think society owes them? I am!

• Michael Weinstein is co-host of the “The Mike & Winey Show” heard at KFYI (550 AM) and can be reached at winey@mikeandwiney.com

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