Inflation hits hard for prisoners


Madchen Fox, staff writer

When it comes to the topic of prisons, many people dehumanize people who are imprisoned. They’ll defend this dehumanization by rattling off that the prisoners committed the crimes, and that they knew that whatever they did was against the law. 

This logic is twisted. No matter what, people have the right to be treated equally and fairly, imprisoned or not. I’m not defending the crimes people commit, but I do want to defend their rights as people. 

In  “New York Times article written by an anonymous writer titled “Prisoners Like Me Are Being Held Hostage to Price Hikes,” the anonymous writer talks about the state of prisons, and how increasing inflation is creating even rougher conditions.  They talk about how they have to save all their money in order to buy new shoes since theirs are broken and busted. Currently, they are using plastic bags and their “best socks” in order to protect their feet from the often harsh weather in Idaho. They are having to neglect their body’s hunger pains for weeks just to be able to afford new, dry shoes. 

Prisoners are lucky if they make 50¢ an hour if they even get paid. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. There is no reason why prisoners should earn less than 7% of the minimum wage.

The shoes they talk about are white Reebok Classics. They cost around 60 dollars. The narrator is able to make 40¢ an hour. Just to be able to afford the new pair of shoes, would take 150 hours of work. That’s almost a full week of non-stop, 24 hours a day work, just to buy new shoes. 

This doesn’t take into account the other necessary supplies that are offered at the commissary. A pair of new sweatpants and a sweatshirt is $42.78 ($21.39 a piece). That would be around 107 hours of work just to have warm clothes in the winter. 

To make matters worse, due to America’s rising inflation levels, these prices are increasing. Because of these rising inflation rates, their savings seem to be insignificant. 

So what did the narrator do to “deserve” this punishment? They committed arson during a drug-induced psychosis. While this crime warrants some sort of punishment, this cruel and merciless treatment is not the way to do it. How is stripping someone of their rights not criminal as well? 

This issue isn’t only in this prison though. Prisons all around the United States severely underpay prisoners. This, paired with brands like Nike and Starbucks “sponsoring” prisons for cheap labor, creates a system that many people compare to modern slavery.

What makes any of this legal? The 13th Amendment also relates to slavery. It abolishes any and all forms of slavery, except for “punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” 

Prisoners are people, meaning they have the right to not face inhumane treatment. Essentially forcing prisoners to starve themselves to allow them to stay warm in harsh winters is extremely inhumane. They also have the right to fairness, meaning they deserve the same minimum wage as people who aren’t imprisoned. The only people who these system benefits are the companies that get to exploit cheap labor. 

While people who commit crimes should have to receive some sort of punishment, dealing with inhumane conditions is NOT fair, nor is it defensible. Prisons should seek to help rehabilitate people, which is not done by stripping them of their human rights.