Senate Budget Amendment for $5 jail fees fails—the fight is not over!

May 28, 2010

Here is what happened last night in the Senate and NEXT IMPORTANT STEPS.
PLEASE MAKE CALLS AND EMAILS AND THEN FORWARD AND POST WIDELY!
Many thanks….
Lois

From: The Real Cost of Prisons

Budget Amendments:

487 the Senate Budget Amendment calling for a $5 a fee for jail and prison stays was defeated.

This is a VICTORY since if this Amendment had passed in the Senate, the House-Senate Conference Committee would have most probably agreed to a $5 a day fee.

Still, the fight is NOT OVER.

Amendment 445, a similar amendment to 487, was withdrawn.

Amendment 95 was ADOPTED. (See below for what was passed.)
Massachusetts prisoners are already required by statute to pay many fees, including victim witness assessments and court costs, medical care, haircuts, DNA testing, drug testing, and room and board fees for prisoners in work release programs. No specific fee amounts are assigned to this amendment. The amendment adds that 25% of the fees if collected, would be used help pay for a “cognitive behavioral treatment program.”

Next Steps:

The House passed Amendment 26 calling for $5 fees. The Senate passed 95 which does NOT detail specific fees.

The House and Senate will create a Conference Committee will most likely be comprised of the Democratic chairs & vice-chairs of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees and the Republican ranking members of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees. (4 Democrats and 2 Republicans.)

The House Democratic Chair of Ways & Means is Charles Murphy 617-722-2990 Rep.CharlesMurphy@hwm.state.ma.us
and
Barbara L’Italien (Democrat) 617-722-2380 Rep.BarbaraL’Italien@hou.state.ma.us

In the House there were two votes on Amendment 26 on April 29th and 30th.
Murphy votes YES on the first vote and NO on the second.
L’Italien voted YES on BOTH votes.

What to do NOW: PLEASE CONTACT Murphy and L’Italien— even if they are not your reps.

1- Call or email Murphy and thank him for voting no on Amendment 26. Let him know that IF (I repeat IF) any action needs to be taken that you would favor the Senate Amendment 95 but and against the $5 a day jail fee. (Sorry… IF you can’t in good conscience say/write you are favor 95 then please contact him, briefly say or write how harmful this will be to prisoners coming back home and to their families.)

2-Contact L’Italien- Let her know IF any action needs to be taken that you favor Senate Amendment 95.The Republicans will vote for the Amendment but as you know the rhetoric of “tough on crime” knows no party.

Additional people to contact:
1) Speaker of the House: Robert DeLeo, 617-722-2500, Robert.DeLeo@state.ma.us
2) Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) is the Chairman of Senate Ways and Means (Steven.Panagiotakos@state.ma.us or (617) 722-1630)
3) Sen. Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre) is the Vice-Chairman of Senate Ways and Means (Stephen.Brewer@state.ma.us
(617) 722-1078)

PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IS NOT OVER UNTIL THE DECISION IS MADE BY THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE!

Redraft JUD 95
COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL PROGRAMMING
Mr. Michael O. Moore, Ms. Jehlen, Ms. Candaras and Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended by the addition of the following new section:-

“SECTION X. Chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after section 48A, the following section:-

Section 48B. The commissioner and the sheriffs for the various counties may institute a schedule of fees and assess said fees to inmates in their custody as follows:-
A daily cost of custodial care fee;
A medical sick call visit fee not related to a condition pre-existing at the time of incarceration;
A dental sick call visit fee;
A pair of prescription eyeglasses fee;
A pharmacy prescription fee.

Notwithstanding the above, the following services shall be exempt from fee assessment: admission health screening, 14 day health assessment, emergency health care, hospitalization or infirmary care, prenatal care, lab and diagnostic care, follow-up visits approved by health services, contagious disease care and chronic disease care.

No inmate shall be denied access to medical or dental care because of an inability to pay any fee.

Twenty-five percent of fees collected shall be used towards providing inmates with a cognitive-behavioral treatment program, included in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national registry of evidence-based programs and practices, which develops moral reasoning skills. Such a program shall be proven to reduce future behavioral problems including recidivism incidents, as well as misconduct within prison facilities which pose a risk to prison staff such as disruptive behavior, fights, assaults, and possessing contraband.

Provided further that the sheriff may prescribe a fee to inmates in their custody assigned to house arrest program based on the person’s ability to pay, finances, household income, number of dependents and medical status.

Inmate fees shall be taken only from income earned by inmates employed on a work release program or for work within the prison. Inmates shall pay no more than 10% of their prison earnings for all fees. However, before any custodial care fees can be assessed, inmates must comply with orders for court ordered child support, court ordered victim restitution, victim witness fee, judgments for monies owed to hospitals, doctors and other healthcare professionals, judgment for money damages entered prior to the time of incarceration. If the inmate is not incarcerated within 2 years of their release from custody, this debt shall be forgiven. This section shall not apply to federal inmates, detainees, regional lock-up inmates, or anyone who has not been convicted for the crime for which the inmate is incarcerated.
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For those who have not read the excellent cover story, “Making Them Pay” by Maureen Turner in The Valley Advocate on the proposed $5 a day fee, here is the link:
http://www.valleyadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=11816