While it may seem weird to some that those in prison need money, it is a helpful and often necessary way to make the time pass. Inmates need money for the same reason that anyone needs money, to buy things. Simply being in jail does not mean you cannot participate in the economy in a limited manner. In fact, having money on the books can not only cover basic expenses, but help pass the time. So, what does the money go toward?
What the money is used for depends on the inmate and the availability of products in the commissary. Prisons are not known for great food, so commissary is often a way of life. Who doesn’t love a good snack now and again? Someone on the outside can put money on an inmate’s books by using the system for that particular prison. Most often this is a Western Union transfer to the inmate in which you include the amount, their inmate number, and name. This money is then put into an account, or on the books, for the inmate. The inmate is not allowed to have cash, but can place an order with commissary and the money is then deducted.
Inmates can purchase food items such as soups, Ramen noodles, and even candy bars and soda as well as tee shirts, socks, underwear, shoes, towels, and other basic necessities. While some things are provided for indigent inmates, it does not include snacks and is only the bare minimum. Some prisons also allow inmates to pay for a small television, cable, art supplies, and even video games, but this is not true of all. For those who do not have someone on the outside, some prison jobs are often available, but the pay is very low. A high paying job of 50 cents and hour is coveted, while others may literally pay pennies. Some prisons offer jobs in which a product is made and commission gained with each sale, but these are not common. A few states do pay prisoners minimum wage so that they may save up some money for when they are released, but again this is not common. However, this practice does reduce recidivism greatly as skills and cash are gained prior to release.
Pricing in prison are likely higher than normal with highly coveted items costing more, so a regular influx of money and someone to put money on the inmate’s books is almost a necessity. If you are the one sending money weekly or monthly, depending on the prison’s terms, you will get very familiar with Western Union and inmate information. You may also want to check to see how long it takes for the money to actually make it onto the inmate’s books as there may be a delay of a week or more.
Your loved one will appreciate the ability to get a few extras to pass the time and eat a bit better when they find you have put money on their books. Sparing at least $100 each month, more if possible, will truly help out. Any extra money on the books at the time of release will be returned to the inmate unless it is due for some other purpose. If you need further information and want to know more about the types of products available, click here.