A Week In A Pennsylvania Maximum Security Prison On A 19 Cents An Hour Salary!
A money diary from SCI Muncy
Skoop is babe.net’s prison correspondent. She’s currently incarcerated in SCI-Muncy, a maximum security women’s prison in Pennsylvania. She loves flirting, cooking and trap music. She’s also a writer – she sends her columns to us by letter. Her nickname, as she likes to say, is Skoop because she scoops up all the girls. She’s here talk about what her life on the inside is like — and if you’re smart, you’ll listen.
This week she writes about earning and spending money in prison.
Many people outside these prison walls would never guess the struggle us inmates have inside. I’m here to tell you nothing is easy in here. Some of us are not as fortunate as others, meaning not everyone has financial help from family or friends – so a lot of inmates need to work for the tiny salary to pay for food and toiletries. I really don’t care what anybody says, no job is worth 19 cents an hour. But that’s what we get paid.
In my opinion what the Department of Corrections is saying to inmates is: “You’re worth nothing.” Some of the other jobs, you’re doing hard labor in any type of weather: rain, sleet, or snow. Some work with the sick (meaning you get covered in bodily fluids). Others help the mentally challenged. Kitchen jobs involve the most work – prepping, cooking, storing, dishwashing, cleaning pots and pans by hand. If you have a job in the visiting area or the restricted housing unit, you have to be stripped naked and searched before and after – whether you’re on your period or not.
I’m not here to bitch, whine or complain. But I do want to shed some light on the prison life. This is real live shit for me, not no damn TV show. I’m telling you how I see it and how we live it. These jobs in Muncy are not worth the pay. I do it to stay busy and it helps my time go by a little faster. Also, I pick up some knowledge along the way.
So let me break it down and show you what we get paid. Anybody who starts off in a job will begin at 19 cents an hour. You will normally get paid for six hours a day, unless you have any groups and appointments. You do not get paid on holidays or lockdowns. 19 cents an hour at six hours a day is $1.14 a day.
If it’s a good month, we’ll get paid for 21 days. You get paid once a month. That’s $23.94 a month. Some inmates have fines or restitution to pay off. If so, the prison will snatch 20 percent out of your pay which will only leave you with $19.15.
For me, I have a personal TV so I pay cable. Another $17.00 deducted. I have $2.15 left for the month. What the hell can you buy with $2.15? You can only order two bars of soap. Every month! Who is surviving with $2.15? Nobody! Which is why we ask for help from our family and friends.
So how does the pay work? You can receive a raise every 60 days, but it’s only a penny so it won’t make much of a difference. The maximum we are allowed to earn is 42 cents an hour and you still can’t live off of that if they take a percentage from you.
Now let’s hope there’s nothing wrong with you. Going to medical to be seen by a doctor will cost you $5 for the visit and an additional $5 for any medicine prescribed to you. If you do not have the money your account will be put in the negative until any money hits your books. Then it will automatically be taken out of your account. Yeah, what I’m trying to say is the struggle is real in here, just as it can be out there.
Most of us are forced to write or call home for help every once in a while. They can send us money through a prison finance app called JPay, but the Department of Corrections takes 20 percent from every transaction. It is not your family’s responsibility to pay for your fines or restitution. It’s ours. It’s bad enough JPay charges our family a fee to send us money, but the Department of Corrections takes 20 percent for me to receive it… we pay for everything in here. We pay for our own phone calls, emails, paper, pens, envelopes, any and all hygiene products, underclothes, sweatpants, sweatshirts, shorts, thermals, sneakers, TVs, tablets, headphones and food.
We all want a TV to watch in our cell. That’s what keeps me sane most days. The price is bullshit though. We have to pay $242 plus tax for a 19 inch TV. It’s a rip off. It’s ridiculous! A GTL tablet cost us $147 plus tax. You have to buy your own songs, games and order links for emails.
The Department of Corrections must make so much money off of us. They know we don’t have another option so we’re fucked and forced to buy it if we want to live a little comfortably in here. I wish I knew just how much profit they make off of us. People spend tons in the commissary so it must be a lot. We’d all rather cook in our cell then to eat in the dining hall, which means we have to buy our own food. Rice, bagels, beef sausage, meatballs, chilli, tuna, any and all package foods that help us make a meal. We’re also buying coffee, creamer, sugar, tea, cereal, chips, everything that we survive off of. In all reality, our family and friends are what keeps this prison business going. Because if the commissary had to survive on the tiny amount of money we earn, it would shut down fast. Why can’t they raise our pay?