New legislation in Arizona allows the state’s Department of Corrections to impose a one-time “background check fee” of $25 on adults wishing to visit inmates at any of its 15 facilities.

Needless to say, families and prisoner advocacy groups are not happy, citing the existing costs of traveling to visit loved ones housed in prisons that are often located in remote areas.

While the visitor fee will ostensibly be used to repair and maintain the prisons, David C. Fathi, director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it could be bad for public safety, adding, “We know that one of the best things you can do if you want people to go straight and lead a law-abiding life when they get out of prison is to continue family contact while they’re in prison. Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

The Tempe-based Middle Ground Prison Reform has already filed suit against the Department of Corrections, saying that because the fee is essentially a special tax on a single group, it’s unconstitutional.

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