Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free Money, Come Get It! Why not tax out of state prison inmates?

Though I've written in the past that I'd prefer constructing a wall on the Red River instead of the Rio Grande, here's an idea (via Corrections Sentencing) that Texas ought to import from the Sooner State: A "surcharge on every out-of-state inmate residing in OK prisons, public or private. $2 a head per day." Reports Tulsa World ("Fee is pushed for certain private prison inmates," Jan. 9):
"Out-of-state inmates drain taxpayer dollars that should go to other purposes," Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, said. When such an inmate escapes from a private prison, Oklahoma foots the bill for capturing the convict, he said.
Texas houses lot more out of state inmates, even, than Oklahoma, and to be frank, the states housing prisoners here, in general, have nowhere else to go. As Michael says, "A million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money. The ramifications are (understatement alert) numerous."

The ramifications become even greater if you include massive immigrant detention centers in the mix, since the vast majority of immigrant detainees are housed in private prisons or city and county jails. I don't know if the state could require such a surcharge from the feds, but it could for private vendors.

On its face, there's little political downside to accessing this funding source: No one affected votes in Texas!


Anonymous said...

The difference between what they charge and what it costs to have an extra inmate is income for the DOC. Tax money goes into the general fund so from a legislative point of view a tax seems like a good idea.

The Texas DOC is competing with other states and private prisons for the income from out-of-state prisoners. You can bet the DOC's competition will make an issue about the tax and there could be a loss of income as a result.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TDCJ doesn't house inmates sentenced in other states, JSN.

Those are all private prisons and (occasionally) county jails taking those prisoners.

Anonymous said...

What about federal and interstate compact prisoners? If there is no reciprocal agreement they have to pay the other state whatever they charge if they house a prisoner in another state prison. Federal prisoners are a more complicated problem because Texas is such a large state.

I can understand why they would want to tax prisoners in private prisons but if try to tax county jail prisoners they could find teeth marks in their butts.

Anonymous said...

Just release low level offenders! Keeping someone in prison for years on end for a victim less crime costs money and that individual doesn't pay taxes.

Just the normal taxes paid by releasees would boost the State's coffers far more than a questionable fee charged for out of State prisoners housed in the State.

BTW - As far as I know, the Interstate Compact is only for parolees and probationers. Not for anyone in custody.

Anonymous said...

Votes affect politics far less than money these days. If the private prisons have lobbyists, this wouldn't pass.