STIMULUS PAYMENTS TO PRISONERS BENEFITS SOCIETY.
W. Couch, #1128941
The Economic Impact Payments, also known as stimulus payments, now afforded to prisoners, benefits our economy, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), prisoners' families, and the prisoners themselves.
It is now clear that eligible prisoners are legally entitled to stimulus payments. Less appreciated is how stimulus payments to prisoners stimulate the economy and promote prison safety and security.
First, like those in free society, when prisoners have money they spend it. However, VDOC prisoners' spending is restricted primarily to Keefe Commissary products, Global Tel Link (GTL telephone provider), and JPay services through which prisoners purchase music, audio books, email
stamps, etc. (Yes! JPay charges a fee to prisoners and their loved ones for each email.)
These three companies receive the vast majority of the estimated $64,000,000 in VA prisoners' stimulus payments ($3,200 × at least 20,000 stimulus-eligible inmates).
Moreover, for the privilege of doing business with the VDOC, each of these companies must pay to the VDOC a significant percentage of the money prisoners spend with each company. Thus, the VDOC enjoys significant economic stimulus from each prisoners' stimulus payment.
Additionally, stimulus payments to prisoners enable the prisoner's family and friends to spend more money in their community rather than on their incarcerated loved one.
Most VDOC facilities lack sufficient jobs for their prisoner population leaving most prisoners unemployed. For those prisoners fortunate enough to find work, the average pay is .27 cents/30 hours weekly--just $32.40 monthly. In a world where JPay charges prisoners .30 cents for each email, GTL charges .85 cents per 20-minutes phone call, and Keefe Commissary offers tennis shoes for $71.29, many prisoners, employed or not, must rely on friends and family for financial assistance.
When a prisoner receives $3,200 in stimulus payments, that is $3,200 his family can, instead, spend in the community. And that amount is even greater when, as is often the case, the prisoner sends much of his stimulus payment to his family.
Finally, few will be shocked to learn that some prisoners remain criminals. Hence, prison society, like free society, suffers its share of crime, as well as the natural stresses and anxiety of poverty during a pandemic. And, as in free society, when the prison economy thrives, crime, stress, and anxiety decrease. For these reasons, stimulus payments to prisoners enhance safety and security for prisoners and staff.
Perhaps Mona Tawatao of the Equal Justice Society and the prevailing attorney for plaintiffs challenging the withholding of stimulus payments to prisoners said it best: Withholding such payments is
cruel to the people and families most harmed by COVID-19 and over-incarceration of Black, Latinx, and Native people and people with lower incomes. Surely, none of us wants to be cruel to those least fortunate among us.
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