There is a huge hidden cost of incarceration that is born by friends and families of prisoners, the Marshall Project https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/12/17/the-hidden-cost-of-incarceration reports.
“The Bureau of Justice Statistic reckons that the United States spends more than $80 billion each year to keep roughly 2.3 million people behind bars,” the Dec. 17 story said.
“Many experts say that figure is a gross underestimate, though, because it leaves out myriad hidden costs that are often borne by prisoners and their loved ones,” the report stated.
The Prison Policy Initiative https://www.prisonpolicy.org/ estimates families spend $2.9 billion a year on commissary accounts and phone calls.
The story lists several family cost examples:
Telita Hayes sends $200 each month to the prison trust account of her ex-husband William Reese, confined to the Louisiana State Penitentiary https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_State_Penitentiary for the last 28 years.
The $2,161 placed in his account this year is but one of many “hidden” costs incurred by Hayes, according to the Marshall Project article. She’s also paid $3,586 for collect calls and $419 for e-mails.
“I think the biggest misconception that people have about prison is that the state pays for everything,” said Connie Martin, a Hazel Park, Mich., resident. “No one realizes that it’s the friends and families of loved ones who pay.”
Kae Boone, 52, spends $100 a month on her boyfriend, Charles Lee Isaac, 52, serving time at Graceville Work Camp in Florida.
He failed a drug test, a violation of his parole. Boone said the money she sends goes toward toiletries and food.
Sending the money has forced her to make tradeoffs, struggling to pay her own bills. “I had one of my cars repossessed because I would prefer to send him money and make sure he’s taken care of,” she said.
A trend that took off during the recession in 2008, when state legislators looked for ways to cut down the cost of incarceration, according to Hadar Aviram, professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law. https://www.uchastings.edu/ “Public prisons are public only by name,” she said. “These days, you pay for everything in prison.”
The state approves vendors that the incarcerated persons can purchase items from or have their families open up an accounts.
The same items that use to be sent in from home now must be purchased from these vendors at inflated cost, the story said.
Hayes said, “The price is jacked up on everything.” She estimated that over the last two years she has spent $10,000 supporting her ex-husband who is serving a life sentence.