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Price Gouging Alleged in Prison Canteen

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Pelican Bay State Prison officials drastically raised prices on coffee and other foods sold to inmates in a prison store in order to fund work on the prison's gym and library, according to a class action filed in Federal Court.

Lead plaintiff James Godoy says the price hikes violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, because officials are using the higher prices to illegally take inmates' private money for use on public projects.

Prison officials allegedly funneled the extra money into the prison's "Inmate Welfare Fund," which the prison uses to maintain the prison's visiting areas, gym and library.

Suppliers of coffee and other commodities to the prison canteen have not raised their prices, the inmates say.

Instead, the officials are allegedly using the raised prices to replenish the fund after the hit it took from the 9th Circuit's decision in Schneider v. California Department of Corrections. In that case, the state corrections department agreed to stop using interest from inmate trust accounts to pay for the Inmate Welfare Fund, Godoy says.

On behalf of California's approximately 170,000 state prison inmates, Godoy sued current Pelican Bay Warden Francisco Jacquez, former Warden Robert Horel, Pelican Bay Chief of Inmate Appeals N. Grannis, and Matthew Cate, California's secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The inmates demand damages and an injunction stopping officials from using increased canteen prices to pay for the Inmate Welfare Fund.

Class-action attorneys are Herman Franck and Elizabeth Vogel with Franck & Associates in Sacramento.


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