State Supreme Court judges are considering whether the state can tap the bank accounts of prisoners without having to convince a judge it’s legal.

Inmate Richard Peterson has been incarcerated at the Moberly prison on a robbery charge since 1995. He made a little money through selling items he made in the hobby room at the prison, plus a bit he made at a prison job. Nearly all the $1,700 is gone now. The Attorney General took it through the incarceration reimbursement act.

Peterson’s lawyer, Michael George, tells Supreme Court Judges the law is harsh and unfair, matters that Judge Michael Wolff responds aren’t relevant to the constitutional challenge. Wolff tells George the question is whether Peterson’s rights to due process were violated.

The question the Supreme Court is weighing is whether a prisoner should have the right to make his case before a judge in an effort to keep his money or whether the state can simply take 90% of his bank account without a hearing. The Attorney General’s office says it is merely following the law. Peterson’s lawyer says the law was meant to catch big fish, not minnows.

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