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Mass. House Approves $5 A Day Fee For Prisoners

As they wrestle with next year's budget, Massachusetts House lawmakers have approved a proposal to charge county prison inmates $5 a day.

The new fee was quickly pushed through on a 106-51 vote by House lawmakers late Thursday during their ongoing budget debate.

The House decided to take up the issue again on Friday. After a lengthy, contentious debate, lawmakers again voted in favor of the fee by a 93-62 margin.

Supporters of the proposal say it is one way to help ease Massachusetts' financial burden at a time when the state is being forced to make deep budget cuts to services.

Rep. John Quinn, D-Dartmouth, noted that sheriffs would need permission from the state to impose the fees and indigent inmates would be exempt.

"I believe we should attempt to recoup some small amount of money if we're able to," Quinn said. "There are proper safeguards in place."

Opponents of the plan say it shortsighted. Rep. David Flynn, D-Bridgewater, slammed the proposal, saying it was unfair to squeeze extra revenue from inmates.

"Why don't we raise it to $100 a day, why not $1,000 a day? Therefore we can estimate much more money coming in," he said.

Opponents say it will make it harder for prisoners to get a foothold in society when they are released and could drive them back to a life of crime.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the Bristol County sheriff did not have the right to impose the fees he'd been charging inmates.

This program aired on April 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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