Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 15)

Jack is serving life without parole, and has terminal cancer. Throughout my incarceration, Jack was a positive influence. He encouraged me to keep writing, to enter short-story competitions, and we proofread each other’s chapters. Jack is seeking pen pals, so anyone interested please email me at for his details.

How are things in your corner of the world?

Another float-building season has come and gone. This one was fraught with strife and animosity. Several of the prisoners either quit or refused to work on the float. There are several reasons behind this but chief among them is the pay issue. DOC decided that WISE Aides (the job we hold) are to be considered as semi-skilled labor. Because of this designation, our pay scale tops out at 45 cents an hour, but then DOC rigged the system so that no one could achieve the maximum pay in their assigned work area, which further reduced our pay to 40 cents an hour. This lower hourly wage coupled with, in some cases, up to 52% of the inmates’ pay being withheld for various things reduced the take-home pay of some inmates to less than $14 every 2 weeks for 80 hours of work.
We are expected to turn out high-quality hand-crafted furniture basically for free. A lot of the items we are building are personal items for the cops. We are getting orders from all over the state, but we are considered semi-skilled.

Then to top it off, quite a bit of the money that is deducted from us is not going where DOC says it is going. As an example, I’m a lucky one as I only lose 6% of my wages to these bogus expenses. One percent is a handling fee for DOC to process the wages they pay me. Five percent is for a non-existent drug rehab program. Even if the program were real, over 98% of the prison population is ineligible to participate. This begs the question of where is the money going? Of the 40,000 inmates in the system, at least 10,000 have jobs. 5,000 make the maximum of semi-skilled or skilled, which puts their 5% at approximately $3.20 a month. Multiply that by 5,000 inmates and you have $16,000 a month or $192,000 a year. Not bad money for a program that no one can attend when it is being run at all. You would think that in today’s tough economic situation someone would question the excess that is the prison budget. 

Shaun Attwood      

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