Only 77 books, 24 of which were coloring books
January 15, 2018 10:19 AM   Subscribe

New York Cancels Private Prison Care Packages Program brief article at the Marshall Project. The article notes that the program that "forced families and friends to send care packages to prisoners only through select private vendors" is suspended. It may yet expand. posted by readinghippo (17 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Suspended, so that they can quietly bring it back once the attention dies down.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

Oh god this made me so angry I made it my mission to make sure everyone I knew in NYS sent a postcard condemning it, I walked around with pre stamped cards, no barrier to entry.
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on January 15, 2018 [29 favorites]

The book thing is especially horrifying, but the worst thing is that ongoing attempt to ensure that private companies profit from prisoners, at the expense of incarcerated people and their families. It creates a monopoly, with monopoly pricing, and then forces families to do business with it if they want to support their relatives. The same thing is happening with things like phone calls. It's such a corrupt, terrible, inexcusable system.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:34 AM on January 15, 2018 [30 favorites]

In addition to the execrable immorality of effectively extorting money from families of the incarcerated, the limited selection limits educational opportunity, essentially reinforcing recidivism. Which is, of course, what they want: repeat customers.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:38 AM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

It's great that if there's enough of a public uproar, states are willing to jettison inhumane punishments like this, but it's sick that they're willing to try them out in the first place.
posted by goatdog at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

This whole thing makes me sick to my stomach, I am just appalled by correctional institutions. ACAB
posted by complaina at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of my oldest friends – and one of the smartest people I know, although subject to dark compulsions – is in prison upstate until late this year. The one thing I’ve been able to do for him is send paperback books from Amazon – novels, wine encyclopedias, Stoic philosophy. Just stuff to keep him sane. My last letter to him described the restrictions being rolled out, and I was very glad to add a PS to say they had been cancelled. But the omission of Amazon from the vendor list makes clear what kind of inside dealing was going on here.
posted by nicwolff at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2018 [11 favorites]

I was shocked by the naked cynicism and obvious corruption and straight-up meanness of the original decision. (Yes, even now!) Hats off to everyone who shamed these assholes into backing off.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

(Read the next-oldest thread about prisoners going on strike in Florida)
posted by Melismata at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

A link in the linked article spoke about how those companies employ other inmates in pick/pack/shipping the substandard pre-approved options.

So, cheap labor, cheap goods, high prices = All profit, coming and going. :P
posted by dreamling at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2018

It should be noted that the system in NY State as it stood, and now stands - where family members can bring in food and clothing (provided it's properly packaged) to give to their incarcerated loved ones is TOTALLY UNIQUE. I know of no other state or federal system that is anything at ALL like this. Every system I know is run the way that NY State tried, and failed, to change over to. So if you are shocked that New York Corrections tried to make this change, and you live ANY state but New York - be aware that your state gouges the predominantly poor, minority families of incarcerated loved ones in order to send them edible (unhealthy, packaged, but edible) food, books, music, clothing and electronics. In my personal experience, in VA and MA state prison systems, we couldn't even order most of the stuff that these private, for profit commissary business' provide. In 5 years of minimum security incarceration, at no point could I order art or musical supplies. In several of the institutions I was in, Amazon was explicitly banned as a book vendor. Technically (rarely enforced), you could be given a disciplinary ticket for letting somebody else read a book that was on your property list.
posted by youthenrage at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2018 [26 favorites]

@dreamling I worked in the motor pool, next to the commissary warehouse where my fellow inmates spent 40 hours a week filling out the commissary orders that the prisoners or their families had filled out. Probably 20 inmates, supervised by Keefe employees. Inmates were paid $.35/hr, our hours were CONSTANTLY being shorted, and in any even all that money went straight back into the phone system or the commissary bag. It was basically a company town, Appalachian coal mine style, mixed with slavery. Imagine the profit margins on a package of ramen noodles - $.10 at walmart (who knows how cheap when you buy by the millions) selling for $.30-.50 a pack, packaged and delivered by inmates you're paying $14/wk (who are turning right around and spending that money on ramen noodle packs)....
posted by youthenrage at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

So the question is, what legislators got campaign donations from these companies? They weren't chosen by accident.
posted by etaoin at 12:01 PM on January 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

> sarcasticah:
"Suspended, so that they can quietly bring it back once the attention dies down."

...with 154 books. Twice the number as before!
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2018

Hey! So if you're in NYC and this is an issue you care about, maybe consider coming to help answer letters and pack books at Books Through Bars (on Sunday afternoons, Monday & some Wednesday evenings, at Freebird bookstore in Brooklyn). If today's session was any indication, the press coverage and uproar over this unspeakable terrible policy has brought in a lot of new volunteers (so a backhanded thank-you to Cuomo, who is apparently to take credit for quashing the plan but whose office also initiated it in the first place....) If you're elsewhere, you can donate supplies or money for postage or buy a book from the wishlist at Greenlight, or best of all, find a local books to prisoners project and help them out.
posted by karayel at 8:22 PM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Also, I should note we send books to people in all but a handful of states, not just to NY. The rules and restrictions vary wildly (Texas is the worst) but even in states where there are much more stringent package restrictions for food and other items, it's usually still possible to send books.
posted by karayel at 8:28 PM on January 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Man, Amazon is leaving money on the table by not spinning off a corrections branded instance, and undercutting all the other vendors. Go to their "" site, put in the state, put in the inmate number, fill your cart, and checkout. Merch is picked, packed, and delivered using existing infrastructure.

Which I would still have issue with. Guess we have to wait for some tech-bros to decide to disrupt the prison commissary system.
posted by mikelieman at 8:33 PM on January 15, 2018

« Older Operation PUSH   |   Resurrection City and the Poor People's Campaign Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments