The high cost of being in the slammer
December 28, 2017 2:59 PM   Subscribe

The Big Business of Prisoner Care Packages Yet another reason to stay out of trouble.....
posted by strelitzia (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Despite her frustrations with the industry, Davis estimates that she spends as much as $600 of her monthly budget on staying in touch with her husband through things like phone calls, visits and care packages. “It eats up the money, but you don’t want your loved ones to go without,” Davis said.

She has two recommendations for other families who want to send care packages to incarcerated loved ones: “Have a budget and a lot of patience.””
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by Fizz at 3:04 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


Man, I would love to get a hold of the "care package" pipeline for one of the white-collar Club Feds. There would be some gnashing of pearly white, perfectly aligned teeth, I tell you hwut.
posted by spacewrench at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


When I had a family member in prison a few years ago I was able to send books straight from Amazon.
posted by COD at 3:39 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


"The privatization of services at correctional facilities generally leaves prisoners and their families with fewer choices, forcing them to do business with certain vendors..."

I got to this point, then remembered one of the reasons why I ragequit the entire country.
posted by trackofalljades at 3:54 PM on December 28, 2017 [18 favorites]


So for those in New York State, they’re trying to do this horrid, exploitative, poor people punishing thing here as well - so if you have an extra moment and two stamps, write a postcard to officials so they get a nice big pile of official voter disapproval waiting for them after the break.
posted by The Whelk at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Damn to hell the entire prisons for profit industry, top to bottom.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2017 [14 favorites]


I did 5 years in Virginia state prison for a non violent marijuana crime. Keep in mind that the food they serve you is often inedible, and in some jails they only have to give you 2 meals a day, one of which can be a bag lunch consisting of 2 pieces of bread, slice of “bologna”, piece of fruit and cookie. Food from commissary and holiday packs isn’t just a chance to eat something halfway decent for a change, it can be survival. Here’s some prices of things for perspective: single pack of ramen noodles - $.30 - $1.00 depending on the facility, 4 oz. pouch of tuna fish - $3.50 - $4.00, 16 oz of powdered milk - $4.00, 12 oz of coffee - $4-6, holiday pack meal in a pouch like beef stroganoff or spaghetti and meatballs $8-12, 11 inch television - $300 with all the cables and antennas (headphones mandatory and extra), telephone calls $.25-$1.00 a minute. The prison services industry has markups that a drug dealer would die for. We were required to work on a farm (picking watermelons if you can believe that) and paid $10-15 a week for 40+ hours. $15 is 3 phone calls home a week and you’re starving to death. Not only are these prices outrageous on their face, but they are essentially a tax on the loved ones of prisoners, who like the prison population are overwhelmingly poor and minority. Sweet system America!
posted by youthenrage at 6:05 PM on December 28, 2017 [77 favorites]


Yet another reason to abolish prisons...
posted by bradbane at 6:51 PM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


I did some prison visiting for foreigners in Thai jails a while back. They use a similar system to the one youthenrage describes, and it's tacitly acknowledged that jails are a money-making system for the guards, administators, and so on up the line. Everything thst seems especially awful about Thai jail life has a paid alternative to provide some relief.

The Thai system was especially cunning in the way it differentiated between locals and foreigners. In theory, both of them were given the same food and accommodation and so forth. And in theory, they could both pay for better food and for things like electric fan rentals. But, because of labor laws only locals could earn a salary from jail work programs. So effectively, foreigners depended on outside donations into their jail accounts to survive; without it they'd likely get sick and die from the heat, bad food, and crowding. Locals didn't have it quite so bad, even without outside support, because they had a basic "income".

So I don't think it's a coincidence that US jail food is bad or that "security" effectively means people have to use special, expensive communication methods to speak to their loved ones. When you've got an incomprehensibly awful system alongside a paid alternative, someone's getting rich. Even if the guards and administrators aren't being paid directly (which would be worth checking) they undoubtedly know that they're part of a profit-making system and that extracting value from prisoners is part of their job.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:30 PM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


Yet another reason to stay out of trouble.....

How many videos of (mostly minority) people being hassled and pulled over and assaulted and unjustly arrested and straight up murdered by the police will it take?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:46 PM on December 28, 2017 [21 favorites]


Keep in mind that the food they serve you is often inedible

Huh, the food when I was volunteering in a NYS prison seemed pretty decent.

I couldn't eat most of it due to allergies, and I've always wondered how people with food allergies cope in prison. Maybe commissary's the only option for them.

A bigger health issue was that one or two people a month were getting killed by other prisoners, though. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't last long enough in prison to have to worry much about nutrition.
posted by Coventry at 11:15 PM on December 28, 2017


> Coventry:
"Keep in mind that the food they serve you is often inedible

Huh, the food when I was volunteering in a NYS prison seemed pretty decent.

I couldn't eat most of it due to allergies, and I've always wondered how people with food allergies cope in prison. Maybe commissary's the only option for them.

A bigger health issue was that one or two people a month were getting killed by other prisoners, though. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't last long enough in prison to have to worry much about nutrition."


You and me both. Truthfully, I am only badass on screen.
posted by Samizdata at 2:42 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I would love to get a hold of the "care package" pipeline for one of the white-collar Club Feds.

Perhaps the records of the contents can be FOIAed?

How many videos of (mostly minority) people being hassled and pulled over and assaulted and unjustly arrested and straight up murdered by the police will it take?

Be thankful there ARE the videos. And a way to have them distributed with minimal gatekeepers.

And perhaps the US Supreme's willingness to allow recording of the police was a backdoor way of getting towards reform? Or perhaps the clever law clerk steered the thinking that way?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:09 AM on December 29, 2017


Coventry: Quality of food varies A LOT depending on what state you are in, I wrapped up my final year in Massachusetts where we got actual pieces of on the bone chicken twice a week. In VA that was a thrice yearly treat - thanksgiving, Xmas and Eid. I was also in the lowest possible security, so violence was not a problem like the higher security prison we were adjacent to (and responsible for keeping up). Ambulances used to cart bodies out of there regularly. People with allergies or religious dietary restrictions had two options - eat beans at every meal or put in to a transfer to a facility that offered religious/medical diets. All those facilities were medium security or higher - so your choice was to go to an even worse, more dangerous, more restrictive hellhole or to eat beans. The order forms for the holiday packs are online, search for “access secure pak” and you should be able to find them.
posted by youthenrage at 4:58 AM on December 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


strelitzia: Yet another reason to stay out of trouble.....

commentary that is, at best, tasteless and, at worst, ignorant to the point of overt racism

http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/


In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4111266/

The problem of racial and ethnic disproportionality in imprisonment appears to be less about criminal justice practitioner racism but rather societal inequities that foster higher rates of serious, especially violent, crime among blacks and to a lesser extent, Hispanics. These inequities include racial segregation and isolation and the resulting concentration of disadvantage in black and Hispanic communities. Such structural disadvantage, in turn, has long been linked to higher rates of violent crime (Peterson and Krivo 2005). Thus, it is arguable that valuable research and policy resources would be better allocated toward addressing the complex of criminogenic social and environmental factors that push minorities toward violent or criminal conduct (see Tracy 2005).

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated “A,” indicated “in demand” neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked “a single foreigner or Negro.” These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion. Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage.
posted by runt at 9:44 AM on December 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


As someone whose employer is deeply in bed with Aramark - for quite obvious, crass, and professionally embarrassing reasons - this serves a reminder that we should hold these greedy assholes accountable whenever possible.

And also, all the rest of us for standing by and allowing such an awful system to function.
posted by eotvos at 9:51 AM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Just in my neck of the woods (well, in the same state):

State's attorney to dismiss 18 convictions tied to former Chicago police sergeant
“It’s a remarkable effort by the state’s attorney’s office to recognize the significance of this horrendous injustice and to do their part to start correcting it,” Tepfer said. “But there are still more than 400 convictions (by Watts’ team) that are unaccounted for … it’s no doubt the tip of the iceberg.”
A Chicago Cop Falsely Arrested Over 130 People for Drunk Driving
It typically went like this: Fiorito would stop drivers, usually in the Lakeview area, on suspicion of driving drunk. He would then—though not always—conduct a sobriety test on the driver. Regardless of how they performed, Fiorito would record them as failing and charge them with a DUI, often making up details about their drunk driving. The accused, eager to avoid a DUI on their record, would enter a plea bargain and plead guilty to lesser charges.

Fiorito’s actions had the additional ignominy of being tinged with homophobia. Because he worked in Chicago’s “Boystown” neighborhood, a large share of Fiorito’s victims were in the LGBT community, and many accused him of using homophobic slurs while arresting them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:49 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


The problem of racial and ethnic disproportionality in imprisonment appears to be less about criminal justice practitioner racism but rather societal inequities

Oh, but don't discount the criminal justice practitioner racism - people of color are charged more often, for more serious crimes, and serve longer sentences than white people. "Forced to live in conditions that create high-crime neighborhoods" is only part of the story.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


My apologies for coming across as offensive. That was certainly not the intent. In hindsight, I wished I would have chosen a better way to say what I really meant - that jail really sucks.
posted by strelitzia at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's hard for folks who aren't for some reason needing to communicate with someone who's incarcerated to realize how incredibly expensive (and no doubt profitable) it is to do basic things. I communicated with an incarcerated woman for a year and had to go through JPay, which charges around fifty cents for a short email. If it gets long, a buck. You can purchase greeting cards to attach, natch, and you can even buy their own brand of tablet. Their website uses the term "loved ones" a lot, trying to make you feel bad if you don't keep in touch using this system that is so unreasonably expensive. Though they at least give you the option of prepaying a response for the incarcerated person, having to pay fifty cents to send an email from a prison where (if you're lucky enough to get prison employment) you're earning fifteen cents an hour - I was horrified, and also ashamed that I had no idea this shakedown was part of the deal.

And just now, poking around on their site, I see they will also handle the payments you may have to make to your government when on parole or probation. Of course, why miss yet another lucrative opportunity? Charles Dickens would be impressed by the creative cruelty of our modern systems of punishment.
posted by zenzenobia at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Previous MeFi posts that touched on prison commodities:

How to spend your commissary money wisely
Tech Behind Bars: Inside the prison system’s illicit digital world
posted by zamboni at 4:50 PM on December 29, 2017


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