Over years, I have received many interesting letters of “support” where the writer says things like “I support your cause because what happened to Ky was wrong, but I’m not comfortable sending him money. Part of the taxes I pay is to take care of prisoners…..”
Ok, that’s fair, coming from the perspective of someone who believes that their tax money is actually going where it is supposed to go. In the state of Georgia, and pretty much everywhere else, I can guarantee that our tax dollars are not supporting the programs that they were intended to.
What I’m posting here deals specifically with my experiences in dealing with Georgia women’s facilities. In fact, these numbers differ, not just from state to state, but also from prison to prison. I have recently found out that inmates in men’s prisons have more access to care and funds than those housed women’s facilities. Also, men in some Georgia facilities have the ability to work and earn money in the Prison Industries, while the women who work in Prison Industries earn nothing. In many cases, if any inmate doesn’t have the money to get basic needs met, it is added to an ongoing bill that the state gives the inmate when they are released.
Here is what people DON’T know about the cost of supporting a loved one in Pulaski State Prison.
Food- The state provides enough food to feed a population of about 850 people. The Pulaski houses up to 1223. In order make the food stretch, the kitchen workers have had to “water down” food, re serve food that had been served to other inmates, and even serve food that was found to be expired. I’ve received letters from women who have claimed to have had to pick maggots out of their food before eating it.
The state also saves money by not serving lunch on “down days”, this includes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and all State/ National Holidays. And in an even more desperate attempt to prevent inmates from eating in the dining hall, Pulaski has changed the hours that is serves meals. Pulaski now wakes people up for breakfast at 3:30 a.m. Lunch is served at 10:30 a.m. and Dinner starts at 3:30 p.m. Many of the people in Pulaski are elderly or on very strong mental health medications. Changing the time that breakfast is served to 3:30 a.m. has basically cut the number of people who can physically make it to the dining hall by about 50%. The simplest example of this is Ms. Viv. “Ms. V”, 68 years old grandmother, serving time on a probation violation. Ms. V has epilepsy, and the medication she takes causes her to sleep through the breakfast wake up call. Without help from Ky, the first and ONLY meal Ms. V has on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is served at 3:30 pm.
Commissary -An added benefit to Pulaski’s “starve our population” plan is that the prison’s commissary sales have gone up. The state has ensured that it is almost impossible to survive without Commissary. Aside from selling food for the down days, the commissary is also the ONLY way to get personal items such as shampoo, deodorant, hair care items, toothpaste, etc. The facility provides a bar of soap and feminine hygiene products, but other hygiene items must be purchased.
Communication materials such as stamps, paper, envelopes are also available ONLY through commissary. In order to communicate via email or video visit, I have to go through Jpay, and put more money on Ky’s books. At the moment, phone calls are not an option for us. As much as Ky would love to talk to his family, the cost is too high. Global Tel Link has a $50 minimum to purchase minutes for phone calls.
In 2 years time, (since we began keeping financial records) we have spent $607. on letters & emails, and over $1,125 on video visits. This doesn’t include extra costs for packages or email attachments.
Medical doctor visits – each visit to medical costs an inmate between $5 and $10. Special medication, such as antibiotics, is an additional fee.
Special Food or clothing packages: Once every 3 months, the prison offers the option to buy special food or clothing packages. This is when we are able to provide Ky with seasonal clothing, socks, and undergarments. Sadly, we cannot order new daily uniforms. The facility attempts to fit clothing to someone when they first arrive on the grounds. Ky has been at Pulaski for 4 years and lost more than 60 pounds, but still, wears pants he was given on day 1. Eventually, he wore holes in his 1st pair of boots. He submitted a request for new ones and waited 4 months to get a pair that was only 1 size too large.
When funds are available, we can send books to Ky. He usually requests new books every 3 months or so. They have to be ordered online and sent directly from the distributor.
When I average it out, the total financial cost of supporting Ky is near $500. a month. Ky eats in the dining hall for every meal they serve. He buys what he needs, and a little extra for the people who need help. Most of his money is spent on stamps, paper, emails and communication supplies. He considers himself one of the lucky ones.
The idealist sees the world in black and white. Good vs. Bad. The idealist believes that the legal system works… They believe that the police protect and serve. They believe that only bad people go to prison. They also believe that their tax dollars go where they are supposed to go. The idealist thinks that “America is GREAT!”
I’m not saying that no one deserves to go to prison. There are plenty of people, in AND out of prison, who should be there. What I’m saying is that being in prison is the punishment, neglect, and abuse is not. The reality is that we live in a world of blurred lines. We live in a world where a man feels that personal beliefs give him the right to force his will on another…. where defending yourself is heroic if you are a white man but it’s criminal if you are anything else. In reality, the police can shoot you down on the street without cause. The reality is that the warden drives a $95,000. luxury car, while the people in her care have to pick maggots out of their food.
We will have fought for Ky’s freedom, but in the end, he will have nothing when he is released. He will struggle to find work, a place to stay and finish school because he is a TMOC with a felony record. In reality, the civil rights groups who “fought” for him by sharing his story…. the lawyers who “have his best interest at heart”, won’t give a damn if he’s found dead on the streets in 6 months. I know that sounds depressing, but this is what happens to an “Idealist” who has come to grips with reality. Every day, I watch loved ones struggle to survive as victims of a corrupted and broken system.
The amazing part to me is how Ky still manages to see the world through rose-colored glasses. He still looks for the best in people. He considers himself lucky to be able to help others. Ky still has the one thing that I am barely hanging on to. Ky has HOPE. What makes him 100 times better than me, is that he shares his HOPE with everyone. Every day, I learn patience and grace from this man, and I often feel undeserving of the love he gives to me. It is a blessing and an honor to be able to say that I support such a person.