The Cost of Incarceration

In America it costs roughly $30,000 per year to incarcerate one person. That’s more than I made at my first job out of college. One would think that’s enough to house a person in luxury, especially especially when one considers the bulk discounts, but one would be deceived. All things considered, it’s expensive to live in prison.

Every prison provides different necessities, albeit random necessities. In Orange is the New Black, Herman describes her welcome to three separate prisons; not one provided a complete set of hygiene items. At the prison in Danbury she was fortunate to get assistance from the underground welcome committee, but in her future facilities she was lucky to get dirty underwear. I’d like to say we are thoughtful, if not generous, at my facility, but since we pay our inmates a few cents a day we expect them to purchase their own items. These include long-johns, soap, phone calls, and medical visits to name a few. Any one of these can eat up a month’s salary, especially after a 20% restitution is charged.

Finally, I had to ask how much it takes to live comfortably in prison. By comfortable, I mean hygiene items, a few snacks to survive bad cafeteria days, phone calls, medical emergencies, an extra shirt to make it through the cold winter nights, and a few items to bargain with. That will cost you $50/month or $600/year. If you want a lamp, a radio, a TV or a nice supply of food, you’re talking over $1,000 to live in prison for one year.

Clearly, if you have more money at your disposal, you can make prison pretty comfortable for yourself, but there’s a price for this comfort. I don’t mean the price for the items themselves, but the price one has to pay to those who have the power. To live well, one has to pay one’s dues to the inmates running the scene, and I understand that could run about $50/month. You can do the math: that doubles the price of living comfortably to $2,000/year. There are other ways to pay of course, ways I don’t want to dwell on here, and so I have to wonder, from where I stand, if the state footed an extra $1,000 per person to supply necessities and removed the temptations of the luxury items, if we wouldn’t see less brutality between inmates. It’s just a question, not a solution, and definitely not a proposal. Have you seen our tax rates recently?


About hey miss

A teacher. A prison guard. I used to think that was like oil and water. Like lightening and metal. Some days it is. Some days it's magic.
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