The basics are:
- Inmates will no longer be charged the current $3 per visit for seeing medical staff
- Any inmate requiring medical attention after the end of September 2011 will have to pay a $100 fee, annually, from their trust fund account.
- From September 2015, the $3 medical visit fee will be reinstated - it is not clear whether this is on top of the $100 fee or instead of.
- Common over-the-counter medications will be made available for inmates to purchase via the commissary store
These friends and family are already feeling the pinch, with trying to cover the costs of visits, phone calls, looking after children with only 1 wage coming in instead of 2 etc. Now the State of Texas has decided to levy a new TAX on inmate friends and family to cover the cost of medical care.
This is not the same as a free-world individual paying for medical insurance. The free world individual has a choice of which insurance company to sign up with, a choice of how much they are willing to pay, and usually a choice of what services they want to include in their cover. The free world individual can then work and earn money in order to cover those payments.
The inmate's family has no say in how much the TAX will be, no say on what services will be included in the cover, and no say on who provides those services. Additionally, the inmate's family are very likely to be working and paying taxes to the State which are supposed to be covering the costs of incarceration already. This means that they are being TAXED TWICE for the same thing!
The Bill states that no inmate can be denied medical care if they do not have the funds to pay for it. So the families have a Hobsons choice of either finding the money and hoping the inmate can remember to not spend it all before they might need to see a medic (not always easy when many TDCJ inmates only get a statement of account once a month, but can visit commisarry twice a month and may not be aware of any money deposited between statements), or not depositing any money at all into the inmate's trust fund and risk not having phone calls, letters or the inmate going without hygiene supplies or extra clothing such as panties for the female inmates who are only issued with 2 pairs every 4 months.
For me, I am already taxed way more on my income by my own English government than most Americans. Usually if I spend money on items in the US I can claim back the tax I pay when I leave the country. This, however, is a tax that I will not be able to claim anything back for. They may call it a "fee", but if it walks like a tax, looks like a tax and craps all over everyone like a tax, then I think it is safe to call it a TAX.
So either my husband being taxed without representation (because inmates cannot vote) if they say the momey belongs to him, or I am (because I don't get to vote in Texas either) if the money I put on his books belongs to me. Either way, there seems to be very little anyone can do about it until the next round of elections, by which time anyone not connected with TDCJ will have forgotten all about it.
And this is the kind of system that David Cameron was spewing the virtues of on the evening news last night, when he did a huge U-turn on his Justice Minister Ken Clarke and announced that incarceration was his preferred method of dealing with those who break the law. Well, it works for Texas, California, Florida, Indiana and Alabama doesn't it....