These Inmates Are Forced to Work for Pennies, But Must Pay Big to Speak to Their Loved Ones

It isn't any secret that America's criminal justice system is far from perfect. In the last 40 years, the incarceration rate has increased by 500%, a number nowhere near proportionate to the crime rate changes in those years. Marginalized folks from communities of color and lower incomes are disproportionately locked up. Overcrowded facilities stretch state funds thin. And now, a new trend in a handful of states aims to bolster these funds by preying on what little money inmates have - all the while decreasing their access to the outside world.

Sign the petition today and demand that Congress pass the bill that would stop states from doing just that!

Almost 20% of all U.S. states have allowed their prison and jail facilities to partner with private companies to "provide" tablets to inmates for reading e-books and video conferencing with family. But these services come at a price.

For one minute of reading inside a West Virginia prison, for example, inmates are charged five cents. Five cents per minute of reading. The average reader takes between four and six hours to read a 200 page book. For a video conference with loved ones from a jail in Missouri, a state that has seen policies shift to increasingly banned or restricted physical visits, 30 minutes will cost an inmate $7.50 - more than a inmate's monthly wages.

For inmates, these prices are devastating. In the past 20 years, compensation for (often mandatory) labor in prisons and jails has dropped from 93 cents a day to 86 cents a day. Let's ignore for a moment the fact that a decrease in wages makes no sense considering inflation over 20 years has only made the U.S. dollar less valuable. Instead, we should focus on the absurdity of paying laborers less than a dollar a day.

In facilities where access to reading materials and visits from the outside world are increasingly restricted, inmates are being forced to spend what little money they have on these precious resources. Educational materials and contact with loved ones are inherently tied to inmates' success in reintegrating into the world once they are released. But the prison industrial complex doesn't care, as long as they can make another dollar.

Congressional representatives from Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey are drafting a bill to put an end to these predatory programs. Please sign the petition today to make sure Congress knows to vote YES on this bill when it is introduced!
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