How Much Do Things Cost In Prison

How Much Do Things Cost In Prison


In January 2018 a group of activists stood
outside the Florida Department of Corrections in Tallahassee demanding to know why certain
items in prison had a marked-up price. The protesters shouted at prison staff asking
why tampons cost $18. One inmate from that prison got a message
outside which was posted on a website and that read, “One case of soup on the street
cost $4. It costs us $17 on the inside. This is highway robbery without a gun.” The prison denied such high prices, but there
is evidence of some things costing a lot more in prison than on the outside in parts of
the USA. The cost of Ramen noodles for instance, well,
that’s a sore point for a lot of inmates in that particular prison in Florida. But what do things really cost in prison? Obviously the costs differ from prison to
prison and country to country, so what we will do is try our best to find out the prices
in various places. We took a look at a report published by the
Prison Policy Initiative, a report focused on taking a deeper look at commissaries inside
prisons. It wrote that simple things like sending emails
and making phone calls can be very expensive, sometimes calling the charges outrageous. It also said getting the data on what is charged
in prison isn’t easy at all, but it did manage to find information on prison sales
in state prisons in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. We should also point out that there are both
state-operated commissary systems and also private commissary contractors. In a breakdown of what prisoners buy, you
won’t be surprised that most of the cash went on prison food. Speak to most prisoners or watch documentaries
on prisons and you’ll find that a lot of incarcerated people are not keen on what is
served in the prison canteen and therefore opt to buy their own food from the commissary. After food, other big expenditures were on
beverages, ingredients for food, condiments, clothing, hygiene, electronics and mail. But were the prices way too high? Well, it seems some prices were actually lower
on the inside but some things were higher. We might look at shampoo sold at the Illinois
prison, which would set a prisoner back $1.25. Outside you could find the same bottle for
99 cents. You also have to bear in mind that to a prisoner
this might still seem a lot on his or her very meager prison wages. In Massachusetts you could get the same bottle
inside for $1.38, but out in the street that same bottle would cost $1.29, so again, a
small mark up but not too much. But in Washington in the prison store that
bottle would cost $1.71, although no size was specified so it could have been a bigger
bottle. Outside, that bottle- if the same size- could
be found at just $1.19. The same report, though, stated that razors
were cheaper in prison in all three states than in high street stores. Ramen in those prisons was also pretty cheap
compared to the outside world, which is a very different story to what those prisoners
in Florida told about the price of ramen noodles. It really depends on the prison, because we
found an article in The New Yorker which cited evidence that in a Mississippi prison some
items were five times more expensive than on the outside. The article it cited said, “For instance,
a 20-ounce box of store-brand Cinnamon Toast Crunch costs $1.67 at a discount store. Inside Mississippi prisons, the cost is nearly
five times higher — $4.80 for a box with 8 fewer ounces.” It also said a copy of the Quran at that place
had cost $58.95 but had been lowered to $26, when you could buy one on Amazon with shipping
included for $13. We went to a forum where a prisoner who said
she had had an extended stay at the Central California Women’s Facility talked about what
she paid for things in the prison store. Like the report, she said some things were
more expensive than on the outside and some things were cheaper. As an example she wrote, “A ramen noodle
is 25 cents, and a single soda is 55, while a bottle of water is 75.” The tone of her message suggested that while
prices there were on par with the outside world, she thought prisoners should get a
better deal seeing as they are paid an incredibly low wage, often less than a dollar an hour. If they don’t have friends or family sending
money in, they are in for a hard time. Another prisoner, this time a male and who
stayed at a prison in Michigan said he thought the prices of things in prison were a bit
cheaper than on the outside. He wrote that Irish Spring Soap, 5.2oz, was
$1.45. If you go online, that doesn’t look like
a bad price at all. Then again, on the same forum there are former
prisoners saying the prices were greatly inflated. Hmm, so what’s the truth? Remember we are talking about regular items
here, not things like phones that have entered the prison illegally. Everyone knows prisoners have to pay a small
fortune for these- a recent article in the British media said that the most basic cellphone
one can buy that costs about $30 on the outside can go for around $700 in prison. That’s a lot, but it’s not easy to get
one inside of course. So what if prisoners want to stay in touch
the legal way and send an email? Well, in 2018 Mother Jones wrote that prisoners
in the USA, some of them at least, were being offered special tablets for $140. Prior to this, though, they could stay in
touch by receiving a printout of an email from someone on the outside. To send a message back would cost the prisoner
40 cents. That was in the in early 2000s. With their new tablets they could send messages,
but not connect to the internet to search for things and visit websites. They could also access some games and music. Sounds great. But if the prisoner wanted to send an email
to someone that would cost them 30 cents per communication. In some places emails cost even more, and
while services are available in some prisons for music and video, the costs can be astronomical. Mother Jones writes that inmates can pay $7.99
for just 48-hour movie rentals, or a whopping $24.99 for a monthly music subscription. This is way more than on the outside, but
they don’t have anything else on offer. Technology inside prison, states the article,
is where prisoners are really being hit with hefty fees. As for phone calls, the Federal Communications
Commission not too long ago put a cap on how much prisoners could be charged for making
out of state calls. In 2019, Prison Policy wrote that this is
all well and good, but most people in jail make in-state calls. It wrote, “Instead of paying 21 cents or
less per minute, as they would for out-of-state calls, people in jail calling loved ones in-state
often still pay $1 per minute or more.” That makes for an expensive chat. You can also find articles in the UK which
state that prisoners there pay way too much for their phone calls, although not close
to one dollar a minute. It seems jails are the problem here, not prisons,
with Mother Jones writing in 2019, “It costs about 50 times more to make a call from an
Illinois Jail than from an Illinois State Prison.” It wrote that from one jail in Michigan a
15-minute call might cost $22, but from a prison the same call time-wise would cost
just $2.50. The reason for the expense is different vendor
contracts with the institutions. Then you have care packages. You can find online articles about these special
care packages that families can send prisoners, because you can’t just take anything into
some prisons. The goods are contraband proof and are bought
from a contractor. It’s often either buy from one of these
vendors or don’t send anything at all. And it’s not just food, either, you can
send in things such as bibles or a pair of socks. But families have complained about the prices,
and then you have a processing fee, handling fee, and the prices from prison to prison
can be very different. One report states, “At Franklin County Jail
in Pennsylvania, for example, a radio from Access Securepak costs $22, but in Custer
County, Nebraska, the program sells that same radio for just under $13. At Arrendale State Prison in Georgia, a wire-free
bra from Union Supply Direct is $13.80; at Northeast Correctional Complex in Tennessee,
the company sells the same bra for $25.95.” Again, it’s all about what contracts have
been secured, so some people lose out just because of where they were sentenced to serve
their time. This is just in America. You could go over to Thailand and find a very
interesting story. In some Thai jails the prison food is so bad
you won’t last long eating it, or at least fall prey to ill-health. One foreign man imprisoned there who was wrongly
convicted and imprisoned for many years learned how to speak Thai in prison and then studied
Thai law. After that, he sued one prison for selling
the most expensive bananas in Thailand. Once he knew the law he started suing prisons
for all manner of things that were illegal. When the man got out, he had over 200 cases
on the corrupt cops that sent him down and others that had done him wrong in the justice
and corrections system and he became a kind of celebrity. The Guardian writes that something similar
was going on in Saudi Arabia, with expat prisoners complaining about massive mark-ups inside
prison. That might be for phone calls, a pack of cigarettes,
soap, shampoo, or even razors. What might happen is an inmate or inmate gang
get a deal going with the guards and then start a store, and you might call this the
equivalent of the commissary, but with extremely high prices. While activists rightly complain about conditions
in American prisons, in some prisons around the world people have no choice but to buy
these marked up items or else their health will fail. In some prisons you even have to pay for clean
drinking water, which should of course be free for everyone. It seems in most developed nations the big
problem is the cost of phone calls and also the cost of new tech inside prisons, and as
we said, those special care packages have also been a point of contention for a lot
of people with family and friends inside U.S. prisons. Do you think things should be much cheaper
inside prison? What do you think about the charges for phone
calls? Emails? Tell us in the comments. Also, check out our other video Why Was This
Prisoner Kept Locked Away In Permanent TOTAL Isolation. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

100 Comments

  1. Can you please make the following (these are video game things, specifically from the Just Cause series):

    DRM (Di Ravello Militia) vs EU
    Di Ravello vs You
    Black Hand vs US Military
    Imperator Bavarium Tank vs M1A2 Abrams

    If you can make these, it's ok. If you can, great. Reply to me if it's either of those and/or more information about the Just Cause Contestants.

  2. Just give them decent food, some hygiene products and an unrestricted tablet. If each prisoner had their own tablet their would be a lot less fights and violence in jail because people would spend all their time on tablets.

  3. I don't think they should get anything except 3 square meals a day a bar of soap and a jump suit and in the case of women tampons but that's it no chips or condiments whatsoever.

  4. I don't see much wrong with this. Prison is punishment. I'm surprised they even get as much as they do reguardless of price

  5. Why do they even pay prisoners with money? The prison buys the supplies, pays the prisoners for their work, which they in turn pay for the supplies. The prison is just sending money in a big circle, no?

  6. Don't commit any crimes and you will have the same prices as everybody else . You have already a place to sleep for free , free laundry , free clothing and free water .There are Veterans who are homeless and would love to get your jail's food .

  7. Ramen aka a brick goes for a dollar in jail. At most 2$ but that's if there's limited supply which is rare cz that's the most bought item

  8. Not to mention if you want a TV you're going to be paying over 200 to $250 for 15-18or19 inch flat screen that's clear

  9. The point of prisons is to remove the freedom of movement from criminals. Nothing more, nothing less. They should pay a "fair market value" of the region. No more, no less. I know, maths. They hard.

  10. An example that's less than $1 difference is not compelling. There is no way a prison has the buying power of retail outlets. The prison has to sell at a higher price in order to not take a loss on that transaction.
    Should things be cheaper?
    IDK. That's a case to case issue.
    However the prison's priority should be the safety of its staff, the safety of inmates, operating costs, and THEN the price of comfort items.

  11. Tampons, water and other essentials should not cost anything. All the extra stuff like ramen, soup and whatnot should totally be taxed.

  12. If there are privately owned prisons, shouldn't they have TV ads as well? What happens if a prison goes bankrupt because of all the competition?
    This system is a parody of actual capitalism.

  13. Their in Prison! Not the Ritz! Don't commit a crime and you won't get locked up and then they wouldn't have to worry about how bad things are in jail/prison

  14. they shouldn’t complain. They broke the law, did terrible things to people. They should be grateful that they are still allowed some enjoyment of drinking a soda or using a tablet and stuff, some people outside prisons don’t have any money at all or a place to sleep

  15. watching this video i started to think “hmm, getting to still buy sodas and food and message people on the outside doesn’t seem so bad, i wouldnt mind going there” then i realized i could do all those things right now if i wanted outside of prison

  16. 2013 in Scotland it was 11p to buy a packet of cigarette papers. Outside it was 25-28p. 25 gram of Amber Leaf tobacco was £2.45. Outside it was £3.80

  17. this is prison bud not summer camp you shouldn't expect to be treated like a king it's hard in there and that's what they get for commenting crimes

  18. Well, it is prison. Its a punishment, not a vacation. If you dont want to tough it out in prison, then whats the other option?…. oh yeah! Dont go to prison 🙄

  19. I'm in a mandatory National service and I agree on what you have said. A pepsi outside would cost $0.90 but in the Military service, we were not allowed to drink soft drinks so a pepsi would at least cost $15

  20. I saw a bunch of comments on 3:05 regarding the error saying that it is a little less than 3x the prices and not 5x. I decided to check it. First, we need to know the price per ounces.

    $1.6÷20=$0.08. So it's $0.08 per ounce.
    Now, $4.8÷12=$0.4, which mean the price per ounce is higher.
    Therefore, $0.4÷$0.08=5.

    The video is correct, but many of us didn't take into account the 12 fewer ounces.

  21. Awww… my heart goes out to all those serial killers and rapists locked in there… i can't believe they have to pay 50c extra for ramen noodles

  22. "Prisoners should be given a better deal"
    Idiots, you're not prisoners for nothing. Having to work is light punishment for stealing thousands of dollars worth of something.
    Even worse for murderers.

  23. I was in jail when I was younger, but I remember in the jail I remember a pack of Ramon was 1.50. I was in Illinois.

  24. The jail(not prison like state pen. But just the county jail) my dad is in right now, has to pay $3 per pack of ramen(18 for a 6 pack) and phone call is $3 per minute 3 min tops, and you cant visit in person its online at $10 per 30 min whether it's at the jail or at your house, and being a lower class family it's not something we can afford monthly, let alone weekly

  25. It’s prison. It’s hard time. It isn’t meant to be fair for criminals. They should be happy to get to purchase things at all.

  26. Prison should be free the government should have to pay for everything to encourage the government to actually rehabilitate prisoners not the tax payers

  27. For everyone saying if you don’t want to pay the prices don’t commit crimes etc. etc. it seems to me like you are all forgetting that these people who have committed crimes have families and the families would like to remain in contact with their family member regardless of what they’ve done and communicating with these people is the only way they can maintain a relationship. Unless I you are personally experiencing this, who are you to judge the circumstances? Have some human compassion and quit being so narrow minded.

  28. At the jail , in the city where I live in Oregon. 1 single Top Ramen costs a dollar, when 9 out of 12 months you can find them in 6 for a dollar. Or bags of instant coffee that's 7$ on the inside but can be found at any dollar store on the outside… smh

  29. It's important to remember that these are prisoners and what they are buying our treats and rewards for hard work that's earned through Labor. A lot of people don't realize that these prisoners are being paid to work and all their living expenses are being paid for them. I think it is reasonable to have a high markup on these items

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