"What's excessively punitive is what they've done to society and violating our rules and our laws and then, the society and the taxpayers having to pay almost $30,000 a year to house them."
- State Senator Dave Knutson
Samuelson: he majority of people in the state system are poor and their families are poor. So when you talk about 10 percent as not being very much, for these people, it is a significant amount of money.In September and October, the surcharge brought in just over $62,000. The cost of the adult prisons for those two months was about $34 million. The surcharge is supposed to help pay for the cost of confinement, but it does not lower the amount of taxes Minnesotans pay for prisons; the money from the surcharge goes into the corrections' general fund and a corresponding amount of taxes is not taken out.
Knutson: I don't think that it is excessively punitive. What's excessively punitive is what they've done to society and violating our rules and our laws and then, the society and the taxpayers having to pay almost $30,000 a year to house them. Knutson says everyone has to pay to house himself or herself and it shouldn't be any different for inmates.
Another Crime Prevention Committee member, State Senator Warren Limmer of Maple Grove calls the surcharge "egregious." He was a corrections officer for three-and-a-half years. While he considers himself a "law and order" legislator, he also says what most people take for granted is very important inside a prison, like buying a candy bar once in a while, and that the state shouldn't tamper with that money.Limmer: Believe me, as a former correction officer, those types of items giving an inmate an opportunity to have some little luxury item like that, settles a prison population down. It makes it a safer place to work, and it makes it a safer place for inmates to react and relate to one another.Limmer also says an administrative body like the corrections department should not have "de facto taxing authority."
The MCLU's Chuck Samuelson says there is supposed to be a limit to the punishment society imposes on criminals.Samuelson: We do not believe that because they're incarcerated for their crimes, they should be treated as chattel, and any assets that can be seized should be seized, unless it's properly done through judicial procedures. It's called due process.The MCLU is asking a court to declare the surcharge illegal and unconstitutional, and to order the corrections department to reimburse the inmates who have paid it.