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Why do Inmates Get Paid?

Why do Inmates Get Paid?

In the words of the great poet Papa Puff, it’s all about the benjamins. I’m not sharing this lyric with you to prove my amazing knowledge of 90’s rap songs, but because today’s blog post is all about money.

When someone is in jail, it’s easy for an outsider to think they don’t need any money because the state provides them with everything. They have shelter, beds, uniforms, three meals a day, hot baths… what else do they need?

Believe it or not, when you’re in prison, you still need income to survive. To have a little bit of peace of mind, to be able to communicate with loved ones outside, and to be able to keep yourself clean, you must have a monthly income.

Some inmates are lucky enough to have friends and family send them money, but others are left to support themselves on money earned in prison.

Which leads to today’s blog post: Why do prisoners get paid?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • What kind of state property does the prison give prisoners?
  • What do criminals want money for?
  • How can you send money to prisoners?
  • How do prisoners spend their money?
  • Do prisoners get money when they get out?

What kind of state property does the prison give prisoners?

When you go to jail, you are stripped of all their personal property. Before you first enter the housing unit, you will also be stripped naked and washed with water, and forced to have your head treated for lice.

Once it’s cleaned up, you’ll receive a “state issued” item. These programs vary for male and female inmates, but there are some common basics. Everyone has pillows, blankets and sheets. The state also distributes towels, bath towels, toothbrushes, soap and small bottles of shampoo.

You can also put your clothes in a laundry bag, which consists of three (or more) uniforms, usually pants and a top. Depending on the facility, they can also be jumpsuits. Women have bras, socks and underwear. Men will get T-shirts, underwear and socks. They’re often poorly made and don’t fit well, and you might get one size too large.

You’ll also get a pair of boots, a coat and a sock hat. You have to buy everything else from the canteen.

What do criminals want money for?

Since the sanitary items they issue you are the absolute minimum, the thing prisoners need the most money for is toiletries. You need to pay for a decent bottle of shampoo, some conditioner, a large bar of soap, toothpaste and lotion.

In the prison I was in, you could also buy single edge razors, cosmetics and electrical appliances like hair dryers and curling irons.

You will also need money for paper, pens, stamps and envelopes so you can write letters home, and money for phone time so you can call family members.

Prison canteens also sell electronics to help pass the time, including televisions, CD players, tablets and typewriters. Inmate tablets also have the option to purchase games, movies and music.

The food in the prison is quite disgusting, and if you have money, you can buy food and drink in the cafeteria. At the end of my four years in prison, I could have written a prison cookbook based on recipes I made from food I bought from the cafeteria. I can do some incredible things with ramen.

Another great thing to buy while in jail are clothes and tennis shoes. The uniforms were uncomfortable and itchy, and the boots were heavy. It’s a good idea to stock up on T-shirts, sweatpants, shorts and tennis shoes so you don’t have to wear a uniform all the time.

To answer today’s question, a prisoner gets paid because they need it to survive. Not to mention, many inmates work full-time manufacturing jobs in call centers or the transportation sector. They do the regular jobs a free man can do, but get paid a few cents an hour.

How can you send money to prisoners?

An inmate can live in relative comfort in jail for as little as $25 a week. However, that income level is upper class in prison.

In Missouri, the “state pay” is paid out monthly, $7.50 for those without a high school diploma or GED, and $8.50 for those with a diploma or GED. Some jobs at camp also have a small stipend. For example, a cook in the kitchen earns $15 a month, while I work in the cafeteria and earn up to $50 a month.

However, if you owe money on fees or compensation, they will deduct all the money from your account and only give you $5 per month. I’m sure regulations on this vary from state to state, but one thing all prisons have in common is that most inmates live on just a few dollars a month.

To help loved ones behind bars, you can send them money using services like JPay, the largest prison money service in the country. They have a website that allows you to send money using a credit or debit card.

Most prisons will also accept money orders for inmate books, but the process varies by facility.

To find specific ways to send money to your inmate, click on the facility locator on PrisonInsight and select the prison where your loved one is located. There you will find details on how to send money to your prisoner.

How do prisoners spend their money?

Apparently, the prisoner had no cash on hand. When someone adds funds to an inmate’s account, they can check the balance through a self-service kiosk inside the dorm. Some inmates have the option to check account balances on a tablet.

Each week, one prisoner is allowed to go to the “shop”, the prison canteen. Each housing unit has a specific day to pick up, and inmates can place their orders through kiosks or tablets.

When orders for housing units are ready, inmates are either called to the mess hall to pick up their meals or have them delivered to them.

Do prisoners get money when they get out?

When an inmate leaves prison, they are given a debit card with the amount that was on the books on the day they were released. It’s all the money friends and family send them that they don’t spend, their state wages, and all their unspent work income.

Since most people don’t have much balance in their accounts, most people don’t take much money with them when they go out. If an inmate has no money, the prison will give them at least a month’s state salary (usually no more than $20), so they won’t be completely broke when they hit the streets.

Do you think prisoners should be paid more? Let us know in the comments below.


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How much do incarcerated people earn in each state?