This story was told by a person incarcerated at Soledad.
Caller: OK, so picture if you can, your bathroom. In your bathroom, you have another person living with you. Inside that room, it’s only the size of the bathroom.
So in that room, you have two TVs, two fans, two hot pots, one toilet and one sink. Whenever you want to eat your food your cellie might have to use the toilet, and vice versa. The other thing is, you’re in that cell 163 hours a week.
Caller: Before the prison pandemic, we were out of our cells from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at night, except for one hour because they do count.
Caller: Another thing is you receive three small kid meals a day. The food that they feed you, the budget is $3.50 per inmate per day.
Caller: So you can imagine what you’re fed.
Caller: You don’t have family or friends that can send you what they call a care package. Or send you money through the electronic system. It’s called JPay. You can’t go to the store, there’s a store here.
And they stocked it with all the needed items like food items and stuff you want to cook with and all your hygiene. But you can also order the same things from the package. With the restitution, some guys can’t really get money in because when they get money in, if your family sends you $100 you only get 45.
Caller: And everyone has restitution because when you go through the court, you gotta- they give everyone restitution now. There used to be a time when you came to prison, and they didn’t give you restitution unless you had a victim. Now everyone has to pay restitution.
So if a guy gets- say you, you’re blessed by your grandmother and she gives you $300, you get 135. The prison sends the rest to the victims fund, regardless if you have victims or not. Packages, they’re all private corporations. Your people order online, some of the name companies, one is Walkenhorst’s, the other one is Access Securepak, and one is called Union Supply Direct.
They charge you like $10 for shipping fee, but you can order like television, radio, tennis shoes, your clothing, food. It’s a good value for what you get out of there, but some of the prices are high.
Caller: Before they had that program, people’s family could just send stuff in. And what was good about that is if you had a grandmother or somebody had a whole bunch of canned goods, they could just send the canned goods in the mail.
They stopped that program. It actually made it more efficient but now people have to pay out of the pocket to get the packages. You’re allowed three or four of those a year every 90 days to get one. For this year because of COVID-19 they’re allowing us to get one extra package.
But your family still has to buy that. Most of the prison jobs pay from eight cents to 24 cents an hour. They max you out at 150 hours so most inmates aren’t making more than $36 a month.
Now I just told you you can spend 220 at the store so you know where that other money is coming from, the street. The other thing is they have what they call Prison Industry Authority here. That’s guys that make the shoes that we wear, the boots, the clothing.
And those guys get paid more money. They make- the most they make as $1.10 an hour and they- those- it’s only- put it this way: This facility I’m at has 2000 people, only 300 guys are PIA.
UCI: Mhmm. Wow.
Caller: Plumbers- if you’re a plumber, electrician they pay you $1 an hour you know, if you got that skill training.