Katrina, our Pre-Release Manager, was incarcerated from 2008-2016. During a recent conversation, she shared with our team that it costs an incarcerated person about $100 a month for personal needs while in prison. An audible gasp could be heard.
“You arrive only with the clothes on your back.” Each women is fitted for a uniform (pants and tops) according to the facility’s loose-fitting standards. The are issued underclothes (I’ll spare you the details), and a pair of steel-toe boots that are worn for everything from everyday activity, to exercise or recreation. The thin socks provided don’t last long inside the heavy boots.
They are issued a personal hygiene kit which “you guard with your life because you only get one or two a year.” Anything needed in addition, is purchased through the commissary. If an inmate wants tee shirts, shorts, tennis shoes, slides (for the showers), heavier socks to wear with the boots, or a fall jacket–they must be purchased through the commissary.
You may think those are “luxuries”-which may be to us who have private bathrooms, but Katrina said, “You don’t want to go into those showers in your bare feet, believe me.”
And I did…believe her.
She shared that she accidentally dropped her toothbrush on the bathroom floor one time. “There was no way I was going to pick it up and put it in my mouth.” So, Katrina went without until she could secure a new toothbrush.
If an inmate needs medical attention, there is a cost. It’s not much but if they have no source of income, no family member or an organization like Changed Choices putting funds on their account, they have no way to pay for it. And while an inmate is not declined care, the unpaid costs for the doctor, dentist, mental health provider or prescriptions is accrued to their account. Once funds are deposited the unpaid fees are the first deducted leaving little or nothing for the inmate’s use.
Part of Changed Choices Pre-Release program is to provide stipends for indigent clients who have no other means of support. We budget around $8,000 annually to be able to help our clients most in need..so they can purchase a new toothbrush or fill their prescriptions.