As Liza Minelli tells us singing and dancing, money makes the world go round. And, while that movie reference tells you too much about my age and geek interests, it’s a universal truth, both in the free world and in prison.
Money is everything in prison. It can change your experience from utter misery and misery to less misery and misery, the best thing you can do while behind bars. When you go to prison, you are stripped of all possessions and then they give you basic clothes, hygiene products, pillows and blankets. That’s it. You can put almost everything in the laundry bag.
If you want anything other than basic, prison-issued items, you have to buy it. Most prison jobs pay about 10 cents an hour, and if you owe past intervention fees, court costs, compensation or victim compensation, the prison will take a cut of your salary each month, which means you’re left with about five cents. Dollars are spent at the commissary.
If you don’t have someone outside to send you money, your prison experience is more of a nightmare. You will be forced to eat in the cafeteria all the time, your clothes will be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, you will never be able to call or write home, and you will never be able to get clean.
So, today, let’s talk about money, and more specifically, why do prisoners need money while they are in custody?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- What does jail cost?
- How to send money to prisoners
- How to Send Money to Federal Prisoners
- Do you leave prison with money?
What does jail cost?
Every prison has a commissary (aka canteen or store) where you can buy everything from food and drink to electronics.Prices are similar to airport prices, which means they have crazy markups, but I’ll pay 35 cents for a pack of ramen all day long (about triple the price at the grocery store) if that means I don’t have to eat it Poultry A La King in the canteen.
Each prison commissary has a different variety of food, but typically they offer ramen noodles, bags of chips, bags of chicken and tuna, flan, oatmeal, crackers, cheese cubes, beans, and tortilla shells .
In the prison I attended, we had access to a microwave, so they did have a few things you needed to cook first. However, for prisons that don’t have that option, commissary food is something you don’t have to do.
The kiosk also offers beverages such as coffee, soda and juice, and also sells stamps, stationery, pencils, pens and notebooks. Hygiene products are a big seller because it’s the only way inmates have access to shampoo and conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion and basic cosmetics. We can also buy small handle-resistant razors, curling irons and hair dryers.
Other available items include clothing such as t-shirts, socks, underwear, sweatpants, and tennis shoes. You can also buy electronics like TVs and CD players.
We also host weekly fundraisers from different organizations, such as the NAACP and Restorative Justice, where we can buy chips, candy, sandwiches, and frozen veggies. Each month, we have the option to buy items like bras, craft supplies and CDs from our mail order catalog.
I have no words to describe the surprise I had the first time I purchased a bra from the Eastbay catalogue. After months of wearing a prison-issued bra, it’s absolute heaven to be in something that fits comfortably.
You can also make phone calls with money on your account, which is very important when you are locked up.
Some prisons are now providing inmates with tablets that they can purchase to make phone calls and download games, movies and music. But of course, all of this costs money.
How to send money to prisoners
Every state prison has its own way of sending money to inmates, but they almost always have a mail-in option as well as an online option. Some prisons allow you to send checks or money orders directly to inmates, while others have a lock box that you must use to send regular mail.
The most popular and easiest way to send money to prisoners is to use online services such as Alipay, Tap Pay, then Western Union. Each state and facility uses different services, so be sure to check the specific facility where your loved one is incarcerated prison insight Get step-by-step details on how to send money.
How to Send Money to Federal Prisoners
For federal prison inmates, the options are the same no matter which prison your loved one is in. Choices are via US Postal Service, Money Gram, or Western Union. To learn more about how to send money, Click here or go to a specific facility page Prison Insights.
Prisoners held in private prisons are an exception. They have their own ways for you to send money to inmates, so be sure to click on the specific facility page for those details.
Do you leave prison with money?
If you have money on your books when you leave the prison, the prison will put the money on the debit card they give you when you leave the prison. If you don’t have someone to send you money, the jail will usually give you $5 to $50 when you leave, and that’s it.
If a prisoner has nowhere to go after release and no one to help them, they only have so little money to spend which can quickly lead to a lot of problems.
Yes, money is important in prison, but a little can go a long way. If prisoners have $100 a month to spend, they’re pretty comfortable, and every dollar helps. So if you have a friend or loved one who is currently incarcerated, send them a few dollars if you have money to spare. This will definitely brighten their day and change their world. It’s not just about being able to buy things, it’s about being able to write letters and call home, two things that can make a prisoner’s time in prison more bearable.
Have you ever sent money to prisoners? Let us know in the comments below.