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we can without talking with inmates (the condition the DoC set on us getting in there), we'll try to do a day in the life type of story.(Photo: Rodney White, Rodney White/The Register)

Iowa prisons collected $420,000 from this surcharge last year. The money goes back to benefit inmates, said Assistant Corrections Director Fred Scaletta, and pays for amenities like cable television or gym equipment.

get them the money."

Perhaps Iowans don't care about what goes on in prisons, let alone about something as seemingly trivial as the fees imposed on inmates. But any of us could have a daughter, mother or brother who is one mistake away from entering an Iowa prison. If that happens, you will care. When you scrape together a little money to send your son to buy dental floss, you will care.

contributions to the "flower fund."

You will also witness how the loss of freedom, lack of basic pleasures and isolation is more than enough punishment for many incarcerated Iowans. You will know many are poor and mentally ill and give up a day's pay just to make a phone call home.

The corrections department will require the department's approval for any changes in fee schedules in the next contract, which is now in the bidding process, "to remedy the current situation," said Hier.

REMARKS: We are using Mark Becker's upcoming sentencing, on April 14, as a loose news peg to look inside what must be one of the more difficult jobs in state government: Working with the mentally ill inmates in the Iowa prison system. As best Prada Robot Wallet

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Prisoners pay $2 plus up to 27 cents a minute to make a phone call. Sending an email costs 25 cents. They pay $3 when they submit a request to visit the prison health services.

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On Feb. Bank to provide debit cards to departing inmates. Contained in that contract was a list of fees the Iowans would incur to use the cards, including $10 to withdraw money at a bank teller and 30 cents for every purchase.

"It's a tax on family members and friends," said Jean Basinger of the Justice Reform Consortium in Des Moines. "It just seems so wrong to do that. I figure I have to send 30 percent more to Prada Sunglasses Images

That was the same day the bank notified the corrections department for the first time of the new fees four months after they were supposedly put in place. "They apologized for the delay in notification," said Brad Hier, deputy director of corrections administration.

And then you may start to wonder just how many additional ways the Iowa Legislature can make life more of a struggle for inmates and their families. bank's fees change without state being told

Inmates can earn between 56 to 87 cents per hour working in prison. Family and friends might send additional money to the inmate to purchase basic necessities, such as shampoo or deodorant. All of this is subject to numerous, immediate deductions outlined in Iowa law. Grandma should know that if she sends her incarcerated grandson $100 for Christmas, he may only get a small fraction of it to buy cough drops, soap or reading glasses.

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However, fees and surcharges are a part of daily life in the state's correctional institutions.

m0414imcc Rodney White/The Des Moines Register Wed., April 7, 2010 Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale Corrections officer Scott Benesh in a reception unit at the facility.

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If an inmate pays $30.95 for pair of Fila running shoes from the Iowa Prison Industries Central Canteen Product Catalog, he pays the same sales tax the rest of us would pay in a store. But he also pays an additional 6 percent surcharge, called "pay for stay." This extra charge is applied to all but a few purchases, including religious donations, postage and the Prada Envelope Wallet

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Other deductions specified in state law include money owed for child support, court costs, taxes and fines assessed for misconduct, damage to property or injuries inflicted on others. All these deductions could total the entire amount of money provided to an inmate, according to state officials.

When inmates are released from prison in Iowa, they are given a prepaid debit card. It contains the remainder of money they earned at their prison job, saved or received while incarcerated. The editorial on this page details some of the troubling fees that are charged to inmates to access and spend their money.

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But there is an exception here: If an inmates receives a veteran's pension, the money is not subject to withholding for restitution repayment.

Living in an Iowa prison is expensive

Of course, corrections officials Cosmetic Pouch Prada can't know fees have changed if the bank doesn't notify them. It's a good thing the bank didn't decide in November to charge $100 to withdraw money at a bank teller or $10 for every purchase made with the card.

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State law allows the first 10 percent of any money provided to an inmate to be put into an "inmate savings fund." This is the money the inmate receives upon release, perhaps to purchase a bus ticket home. Though the Corrections Department can deduct up to 50 percent for restitution owed by the inmate, the department generally withholds 20 percent.

Though an inmate's wages for working are meager, most Iowans likely wouldn't object to them being garnished to repay debts. But deducting a chunk of the money sent by loved ones is troubling especially when the families of inmates are frequently poor.

After any deductions are processed, an inmate can spend whatever remains. But that's where things get really expensive.

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