Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reform California's Prisons

Being in prison must suck, of course. But what I didn't know was how many petty scams there are to fleece inmates and their families of their money. This post on Orcinus has a letter from an inmate that details some of them:
Take money orders. State law P.C. 2085.5 states that mainline institutions must take 33% of all incoming inmate funds for "restitution." I guess I wasn't clear on that when I told you not to send more money.


Another scam is the library. No, I don't get "points" [toward release or better conditions] for contributing to it -- I only feed the machine. Upon checking out a book, you sign a trust release for the amount of the book. These are processed every week. When a book isn't returned in seven days, you are charged for its full cost.

But availability to the library is only given every TWO weeks. I didn't know this, until I was charged for two. Both books were turned in at the next available date -- but too late to avoid paying for them. This way, one book will pay for itself over and over.

By the way, these books are ALL donated by inmates.

I was also charged for two T-shirts. I received them sleeveless, and was charged for destruction of state property. They'll go back to the laundry, and be re-issued to another inmate, who will be charged for them, too -- as was the person who got them before me. The shirts have cost me $15 apiece so far. They were made by inmates in Prison Industry Authority jobs.
I recommend reading the whole post. Whenever you have a population of vulnerable people, stigmatize them, and hide them out of sight, you can pretty much guarantee that exploitation will happen (e.g. migrant workers and prostitutes). Without proper oversight and supervision, we shouldn't be surprised at these indignities. People in prison are there for some combination of punishment, rehabilitation, and isolation from society. They are not there to be fleeced by prison bureaucrats.


Anonymous Bill in Minneapolis said...

One of the worst scams in prisons is the cost charged to immates for telephone calls, their only contact with family, wives and chidren on the outside that will be critical to them when they are released. Prisons mark up these calls in order to make a big profit on them. Much like the old days for long distance calls at hotels before the advent of cell phones and calling cards.

The rationale is that the prisoners, not society should pay for the costs of incarcerating them. However, this is a vicious cycle of basically kicking people who are down and vulnerable.

Many may be pretty bad people but they are human and should be treated with a minimum of dignity and not exploited.

Today's American prison system is a national disgrace.

6:55 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Thanks for your input, Bill. Yes, I've heard about the phone call scam.

I think the most disgraceful thing about the prison system is the number of people in it. I think this is a direct consequence of our misguided and disasterous prohibition strategy on drugs. I think the War on Drugs(TM) is the "other Iraq" of our time.

10:44 PM, February 01, 2007  

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