Under the Dome

Dome: NC lawmakers want explanation of new inmate money policy

From Staff ReportsOctober 10, 2013 

A lawmaker has asked the state prison agency to explain its new policy that turns over to a private company control of money that friends and relatives send to prisoners for a fee.

Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton, made the request at a legislative committee meeting on Thursday. Graham asked that the Department of Public Safety report back in November. Committee co-chairman Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, agreed.

Graham was referring to a story in The News & Observer on Thursday about the new procedure. A Florida company will handle the transactions – offering phone, Internet and kiosk payments for the first time – for a fee. The company, JPay, will also handle money orders, which is the way inmates have received money, without charge.

But as of Nov. 1, people who want to send money orders will have to go on JPay’s website and print out a deposit slip to mail with the order. Prisoner advocates worry that procedure and the other changes will prevent or delay some people from sending money, since not everyone has a computer and printer.

N.C. CURE, one advocacy group, on Thursday said prisoners’ trust funds could also be overdrawn because of charges against co-payments for medical care, administrative charges, court fees, restitution, and child support, for example.

Cooper speaking at LGBT dinner

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, an all-but-announced candidate for governor, will be the keynote speaker at the Equality NC Foundation dinner in November.

The invitation calls Cooper “a beloved North Carolina native son, vocal opponent of Amendent One, and all-around supporter of LGBT rights.”

Cooper opposed last year’s state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriages and civil unions, calling the change that opponents called Amendment One, “unclear, unwise and unnecessary.” The amendment passed overwhelmingly.

Earlier this year, Cooper, a Democrat, said he would not block the ACLU’s move to amend an existing lawsuit to add a challenge to the ban.

New environmental low

This past session of the General Assembly hit a record low on the N.C. League of Conservation Voters’ annual environmental scorecard.

The League reports that it had awarded 48 zero scores since 1999. But 82 lawmakers achieved that goal in this session alone, amounting to nearly half of the legislature. The organization also gave the governor a score for the first time: Gov. Pat McCrory achieved a D-minus, for the bills he signed into law, his public comments and other actions he has taken since becoming governor.

The League gave 27 lawmakers perfect 100 scores. The split is mostly predictable along party lines, with a few Republicans scoring more favorably than zero and a handful of Democrats scoring less than perfect.

The scores were based on how legislators voted on bills that removed environmental protections, as well as the GOP’s zeal to eliminate as many regulations as possible and to restructure key oversight boards and commissions.

Their results are similar to the scores given out in September by Environment North Carolina, which gave 112 lawmakers failing grades.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and Lynn Bonner

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