Between You, Me and the Lamp Post
Day 84: Living and earning in prison
Every now and then I hear or see the complaint that prisoners cost the country money.
Just as often there is the speculation of what prisoners do all day. Do they sit in their cell talking to each other, playing cards or board games, reading or watching TV?
And then there is the question, how much do prisoners earn while incarcerated?
James D. posted the following:
This incentive is avoided by making the labor cost behind bar $1 - $2 below the current minimum wage of the state jail is in. For example: if the prison cell in California has the minimum wage at $10.00 hr; the incentive for the corporation should be $8 - $9 hr. If the prison cell is in Georgia and the minimum wage of that state is $9.50 hr; the incentive for the corporation is $8.50 hr.
I have the inside scoop on this subject. I recently started writing to an inmate and she told me that she earns nothing for her work in prison. Yes, you read that right, she earns nothing.
Alexa (not her real name) gets up every day at 3:15 a.m., has breakfast at 4:00 a.m. and then, together with some of her fellow inmates, moves to the kitchen to prepare lunch for 600 prisoners.
In the afternoon she naps, reads, writes or watches TV. In the evening there are unspecified chores, while on Saturday the inmates clean their dorm and do laundry.
BTW the so-called trustees get to work outside of the prison, the general population does all the work inside the prison, while those in protective custody doesn’t have to work at all. They share a cell with one roommate and have a private TV.
You would think that with all this free labor, the prison would offer certain items free of charge, but that is not the case. When Alexa needs soap, shampoo, moisturizer, hand cream, writing paper, or any other item, she has to buy this from the prison’s store.
When I offered to send her some of these essentials or even some candy, she told me that this is not allowed. I can only send her books and magazines. To buy necessities, prisoners rely on donations from family and friends.
In case you’re wondering how I came to be in contact with a prisoner … this is something I wanted to do for some time. What stopped me was that I had no idea what these people were in prison for. They could be murderers, rapists, animal abusers, etc.
As it turned out, once I found a link to write to prisoners, I could see exactly who I would be writing to and why they were in prison.
After my first letter, Alexa let me know that I could email my letters, but she could not email me back, her letters would remain on paper. This means that she gets my writings within 48 hours and I have to wait for her letters for 8 to 10 days.
I can only say, this is something I should have done a long time ago. I look forward to Alexa’s letters and I’m sure she feels the same.
If you would like to make an inmate’s life a little brighter, have a look at these links: