In honor of yet another embarrassing display of governmental inefficiency and the wasteful spending of tax dollars, Common Sense for Oregon (CSFO) gave its second “Golden Fleece Award” to the Oregon Department of Corrections for spending nearly $1 million on satellite TV for prisoners.
The satellite TV service was paid for by the Inmate Welfare Fund, which is funded by items sold to prison inmates and family members. According to the Oregon DOC this account is meant to fund “services and activities benefiting the general inmate population and enhancing inmate activities and programs.”
Surely education, drug-treatment, counseling, and job-training are at least as beneficial to inmates as episodes of The Simpsons? Yet instead of the Inmate Welfare Fund paying for the services that will provide real lasting benefit to the lives of prisoners, taxpayers are carrying nearly all the burden.
“The taxpayers of Oregon are back-filling drug and alcohol treatment programs, education programs, and counseling programs so the Department of Corrections can provide free satellite television service to prisoners,” said Ross Day, executive director of CSFO.
It is odd that in a state experiencing a fiscal crisis and an 11% unemployment rate, taxes are flowing towards prison programs that the inmates themselves could pay for. According to Day, it was the very irony of the situation that led to the report: “We got a tip from a corrections employee who said he can’t afford regular cable and here these prisoners are sitting there watching satellite television," Day said.
This discovery of wasted revenue is especially startling considering Oregonians’ recent votes in support of Measurements 66 and 67. As an attempt to tackle budget deficits, these votes raised taxes rather than cut spending. Iif taxpayers knew where their taxes really went, they would see that it is spending, not revenue, that is the problem.