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Bipartisan bill to ensure inmates not deprived of right to speak with attorneys

The following is a news release from the Office of Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes:

Today, a group of 8 bipartisan senators introduced the Inafa’maolek for Inmates Act of 2021. In September of 2020, the Department of Corrections mandated that all inmates and detainees use the Paytel system to contact their lawyers. As a result, many of our indigent community faced an obstacle in obtaining legal services while incarcerated.

Bill 99-36 proposes to use the 15% that is deposited into the General Fund by the pay-phone provider to ensure that all inmates and detainees can have no-cost telephonic services to contact their attorneys. This matter was brought up by the Public Defender Service Corporation, urging Senators to ensure that attorneys have access to their clients. “As a former investigator at the Public Defender’s office, I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by many in our community” stated Vice Speaker Muña Barnes. “Regardless of their case and crime, as a community we must strive to ensure that the rights of our residents are protected, and I am grateful for the support of my colleagues” she added.

“As a former Parole Officer, I have worked with many of those who are at DOC who are trying to turn their lives around” stated Senator James Moylan. “We must lift them up, not place barriers that prevent them from progress” he added.

"The ability to contact their attorney freely is an issue of constitutional magnitude. Our clients are indigent. Requiring them to use whatever monies they are able to obtain to place telephone calls should be spent maintaining contact with their family. We thank the Vice Speaker and her cosponsors for introducing the bill and we hope that the other senators will support the measure" stated Attorney Stephen Hattori, Executive Director of the Public Defender Service Corporation.

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