Daily Archives: July 10, 2007

Gate pay for inmates a reality

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Finally, the Connecticut legislature has passed a bill that goes a long way toward giving inmates gate pay. Currently, inmates in Connecticut are released from prison without any money whatsoever and are dropped off in the center of either of the large cities (Hartford or New Haven). Then, they are left to their own devices. I have long maintained that this policy is counter-productive, so I am quite glad to see that there is something being done.

The provisions are that 10% of all inmate earnings will automatically be transferred to a “savings” account, the contents of which will be available to the inmate at the time of release.

Battling recidivism rates and grappling with preparing thousands of inmates for release, several states have set up similar “discharge accounts” for inmates. The hope is that such a reserve, along with other measures, will facilitate a quicker transition to a law-abiding life, and, in turn, stop the recycling of inmates through the court and prison systems.

Obviously, as with all state laws that deal with inmates, there is a catch. Once the account reaches $1000, it will stop accruing money and the 10% will instead be deducted to reimburse the state’s cost of incarcerating the inmate.

Department of Correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz, who tried four previous times to push the law through the legislature, hopes mandatory savings will impress upon the system’s roughly 18,800 inmates the importance of setting aside money for re-entry, instead of “spending money on honey buns” in the prison commissary.”At least it will get the offender some pocket change,” Lantz said. “Hopefully they’ll use it for the right reasons.”

But ofcourse, this is a meager step (albeit a good first step). Inmates rarely make any money in prison even if they want to. The maximum they can earn in CT prisons is $1.75 per hour.

“Ten percent?” said Janette Rodriguez, another former inmate, who for years bounced in and out of jail but is now drug-free. “I think that’s crazy. Some people in jail, they make $5.35 a week.” Pay in the facilities can range from 75 cents a day to $1.75 an hour or slightly more, depending on the position.

Without any outside help, inmates with shorter jail or prison terms, like Anthony [another inmate], would have trouble earning enough to make a significant difference in quality of life, some former inmates say. The savings accounts will not bear interest, said Brian Garnett, a Department of Correction spokesman.

“If you could come out for $1,000, it just sounds like you’d have to be in there for years,” Rodriguez said.

That you would, Ms. Rodriguez, that you would.

One other important provision is the DOC working with DMV to provide inmates with some sort of identification upon release. For without ID, how is the inmate to cash the cheque? Overall, I like the idea, but it has a long way to go to be effective and truly useful.

Choosing an attorney

On the heels of the Avvo controversy comes this post from the Windypundit about dealing with his traffic ticket and the process he went through in hiring a lawyer. Part I explains the ticket and the law he was charged with a violation of. Part II is all about how he went about picking an attorney. I’m a big fan of his style of writing these posts, so I recommend you check both out and you’ll get sucked into the story.

On beginning his quest for representation, he writes:

As in most things, I used the web. I did a search at findlaw.com for traffic lawyers with offices near the courthouse, on the theory that a lawyer familiar with the ways of the courthouse (and maybe the judge and the prosecutor) would have more to contribute. I picked one out because I liked the content of his website—light on “I will fight for you” rhetoric, but with lots of free information.

Interesting stuff there: He presumes that proximity to the courthouse means familiarity with the court (although he doesn’t reveal how near was near) and also relies on the content of the website.
Here’s something else that’s interesting:

What I was really assuming is that the stakes were so small that it wasn’t worth too much of my time trying to pick a good lawyer, especially since I don’t know how.

Yeah, neither do I. It’s a delicate balance you have to achieve in choosing an attorney. First, who can you afford? Second, of those you can afford, which one is best for you? For those interested, Scott Greenfield and Mark Bennett have posted about picking an attorney recently (sorry, can’t find the exact post – maybe one of them can leave a comment and I’ll update the links).

Setting the right fee is important too. Clients may be stupid, but they’re not stupid:

I don’t know if I got robbed or not. I probably could have shopped around more and found a better price, but I’m not planning to hire any more lawyers, so it wasn’t a priority. I guess he probably knew that too, so he probably did stick it to me on the price…

Is that good practice?

Anyway, the icing in that post is this downloadable card [pdf] on the Cook County PDs website, reminding you to exercise your rights in the event you are questioned by police.