See contrary to some of the most popular beliefs, (even those of my own family & friends) those people who are being housed in the correctional system are not being waited on… not enjoying an abundance of fine dining… not being provided with the best streaming services, movies and leisure time activities. Too often, the public receives info or “fake news” in regards to what really happens, in here, and just how much better prisoners are treated than those hard working tax-payers, who foot the bill for all our “extravagance”!

*Now, I do not deny how our flawed Justice System has created an excessive # of people being housed in the prison system, which has created a burden on our law abiding citizens and the surrounding communities… but that is a post, for another time… this is more about the daily economy within these fences.*

Now, when it comes to the daily living and costs accrued… 1st, you have to make a concious decision to the level of comfort you’re seeking and/or willing to settle with. I mean, if you’re unfortunate enough to have either burnt all your “bridges” before you came to prison or merely have no family, friends (or other means of hustle or support) remaining in your life, then that decision is not really your own to make… in that case you ARE provided 3 meals a day. (told to be almost 2000 calories… still up for debate) Sadly, the meals that were once nourishing and surprisingly pleasing to the palate… are now a thing, that almost seems unbelieveable! Besides food, we also receive basically 2 changes of clothes and some extremely inadequate shoes and coat. Anything beyond these basic necessities are provided to us via the PBF (prisoners benefit fund) account. This is profits that are made from store sales, the rare fund-raiser, photo sales… money raised by money spent from the prisoners at a facility. In turn, it pays for TV’s for the day room, cable for the TV’s, movies on the weekend (varying by facility), weights, etc….

Everything else is gonna cost the prisoner or, too often, that persons friends or family. If you want a TV in your cell, that is $150; if you wants shoes, that are comfortable and/or weather appropriate, they all range around $75; then since there is 0 circulation in the cells & summer temps can exceed 100°degrees as well, you can purchase a fan for around $15; of course, if you want to maintain your hygiene and grooming, you can purchase an electric razor and/or beard trimmer… at the cost of $20 – $25 each; oh, there are no speakers in the TV’s, so a pair of headphones, to listen to it will run between $25 and $30; footlockers are over $100 now and necessary if you acquire anything beyond what the state issues, for storage and transfer; and then you have sweatpants, sweatshirts, warmer winter coats, socks, boxers, t-shirts, etc… just adding to the ever growing expenses! Now, God forbid you get hungry or need to snack, drink coffee, buy soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc… that is a whole other list of expenses! We are allowed to spend $106 every 2 weeks, in the prison store. Of course, at a mark-up, exceeding the costs you would pay in the streets.

These are all the factors, that go into creating those burdens & hardships! Because realisticallybthe average pay a prisoner receives for a prison work assignment, averages between $8.00 and $20.00 a month… so any costs you acquire beyond that is generally shifted to our family & friends. This creates burden and ultimately resentment… working at creating a division, where there needs to be strength & support.

So, there are 2 of the ways to function within this (sometimes) brutal prison economy: 1) struggle thru day to day with the absolute basics needed, that the state provides; 2) become an even larger drain on your loved ones…. beyond the mental & emotional that most feel, when standing by us and “doing time” with us (only it’s by choice, on their end) or; there is a 3rd way to achieve this, you can hustle/ supplement your finances… this can allow you the ability to have some sense of financial security, stability and independence. Knowing you’re not just being a steady drain on your loved ones can feel good.

Of course, you always have that element that hasn’t changed and just continue to prey on others to provide for themselves… this is yet another way, that some choose to survive…. by continuing to victimize the weak, even in here.

Now, I hope that this isn’t misunderstood… when I speak of comforts, in here? I’m not suggesting we be coddled! All of us were punished for our crimes, in the courtroom… now we’re being warehoused and continuously punished by (some, but not all) prison staff, who treat us as sub-human & feel it to be their responsibility to further punish us, beyond that! So, what I speak of are small comforts, that can help us maintain some sense of normalcy and humanity, that can make a world of difference… in a place, too often, devoid of both!

Source of featured image: Kayla Wolf, Lincoln Journal Star

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