Texas prisoners could soon see their trust funds – more than $33 million overseen by the state – getting tapped to pay overdue court costs and related expenses, reports the Austin American-Statesman. A Texas Supreme Court decision allows prison officials to withdraw funds from the inmate trust accounts without first notifying a convict. “This changes everything – and allows the counties to go in and collect back court fees and costs up front, and the inmate will have to challenge that after the fact,” said Huntsville lawyer Bill Habern. “That will be difficult.”
“Considering the economic situation, we expect the counties to start fleecing trust fund accounts,” said Helga Dill, a Dallas-based prison rights activist. State law limits how much money in those accounts can be taken: only 20 percent of the initial deposit into a trust fund, and 10 percent of any subsequent deposit. Officials said the inmate trust accounts contain more than $33.6 million.