The price of life in prison

Virginia spends big money to run its prison system. 

The state provides many of the necessities to incarcerated people.  But those inmates and their families have to spend sizeable sums for snacks, hygiene products and even phone calls.

The charges have gotten so big, the General Assembly is now trying to review contracts and price lists.

Sandy Hausman begins a series of reports on the issue with this story about conditions at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.

When state lawmakers met in Richmond nearly a year ago, prisoner advocates asked them to regulate the price of goods and services offered behind bars. 

They complained of high costs for food from the canteen and noted Virginia prisoners pay four times as much as inmates in another state to make phone calls.

Legislators were concerned and decided to set up a committee that could investigate. 

Sandy Hausman reports on their findings.

People locked up in local and regional jails also have to pay similar fees for phone calls and other items.

And Michael Pope reports it’s been even harder for a General Assembly work group to get a clear picture of costs.

  1. #1 by Terrance Bishop on December 15, 2022 - 5:49 pm

    The Department of Corruption officials will never loosen the strangle hold on fleecing inmates,families, the citizens of our blessed state. The exuberant pricing from commissary to “medical co pays” should be audited then those in charge should be prosecuted to the fullest! I’ve been there and know all to well the procedure about this grift.

  2. #2 by Mrs I know on December 15, 2022 - 6:38 pm

    I can tell you exactly how it effects family. It drains my finances every month. Not to mention, we can’t visit because they continue to insist covid lockdown, medical care is substandard. The food served is unimaginable, most of the food you can’t even tell what it is. I could go on and on. There is serious issues within the system. Inmates to request substance abuse help get reprimanded for being addicts. Guess it interviews with the co’s drug n money laundering business. Yes I said CO’s nobody else could be bringing it in. The facility was 100% locked down for covid, yet over 3/4 tested dirty for drugs and were charged.

  3. #3 by Betty Ann Axline on December 15, 2022 - 7:28 pm

    My sons in Central Virginia regional Jail in Orange Virginia.
    I paid an year subcription from our page news from luray. My son should have gotten it every week. He get it in 3 to 4 weeks..
    The food is not Human comsumable!!
    I send him at least 500 per month for medical care, food and etc.
    He sends me a list of cost per item
    What it cost per item is what you can buy a case of in walmart. 300 to 400% mark up.
    No exercise or even daylight

  4. #4 by Kim Lytton on December 15, 2022 - 9:59 pm

    The price of canteen, phone calls, medicine, and a fee of just going to medical is outrageous in VA DOC. Un real. There family, or loved ones have to pay the price so they don’t go hungry and can maintain there hygiene. It all way to expensive. Yes they are incarcerated but they don’t need to be robbed of there funds and phone calls to speak to love ones. But hey that’s the system for you.

  5. #5 by C on December 16, 2022 - 7:09 am

    Do they realize how much it cost to house a prisoner. They get free dental, vision, and medical.also receive a mat ,blanket, and clothes. Not counting 3 hot meals a day. Then you have to pay employees,guards,and all the bills ( lights, water etc.) to run a
    prison. Its not a vacation its prison, dont do the crime if you dont want to do the time. Its
    the tax payers who are paying not inmates. There familys are paying for them to have these items, not the inmates. Do they think about what their family members go throught so they can have these items. Maybe not. Just a thought.

  6. #6 by Wanda Roberts on December 16, 2022 - 7:47 am

    It costs the family, mostly….as since COVID job and school pay have diminished….

  7. #7 by Barbara Kern on December 16, 2022 - 7:52 am

    It is terrible on the families. We are paying but committed no crime. Just because you care for the person and try to be human

  8. #8 by Larry Eugene Foster Jr on December 16, 2022 - 10:55 am

    As they review the system in Virginia….
    Why aren’t they doing away of charging the inmate for room and board….it definitely shouldn’t be that they pay to be incarcerated…. That’s why the canteen is jacked up it’s all tied together in Virginia system P E R I O D !!
    EX INMATE, CONVICT AND ANY OTHER NAME YOU WAbt to be using.

  9. #9 by Stephanie on December 16, 2022 - 2:17 pm

    I have been a inmate years ago and my son is a current inmate. The system doesn’t set you up to succeed but to fail! And most prisons and jails are For PROFIT!!!! The system locks up more drug addicts than any criminal and once you’re in the system they treat you worse than an animal. It just becomes a vicious cycle that is profited on

  10. #10 by Anon Myself on December 18, 2022 - 10:21 am

    The system is corrupt from all directions. First off privatizing jails and prisons for profit makes the judges and the prosecutors corrupt, just check out what happened in New York when a judge got caught paying a million dollars to keep “asses in the seat” i.e., his jails full, therefore maximizing profit. You pay to go to jail even if it’s a dollar a day, instate inmates cost tax payers 10k less than out of states inmates, and the cost to them, the food, some boxes actually say ” not for human consumption on them, this i have seen, hell you have to pay for a court appointed attorney now too, not ” If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed at no cost” ha, and the system is 100% dedicated to re-incarceration, not rehabilitation. It is a perpetual cycle of arrest and re-arrest, regarding addicts and possession charges and violations to the biggest joke of them all, drug court. There is no rehabilitation in incarceration, you come out of a lengthy sentence for getting caught possessing a personal amount of some controlled substance, after pulling more time than most violent repeat offenders, and given the option to take drug court or years in jail. That program is the biggest joke, it must be, there is no way anyone intelligent meant it seriously. I mean sure the program could be good, if it were to be dismantled and completely redesigned. It is completely setup for failure and in the end, you’ve spent so much money, sacrificed endless time, jobs, school, family, to try and fulfill the ridiculous structure and requirements of DC, and to no end, you will fail and end up doing time, dead time (that is said to not exist), regularly seems to occur for one “strange” reason or another. DC time is into courts time they say. The pointless redundant meetings, and to top it off, your never going to make it through the program so a few years later after sacrificing all this, you go back to court on original charges and it was all for nothing. You get the time you were going to get in the beginning, probably more. Oh and to top it all off, it is corrupt as sh*t and there is no on you can tell about it. You have to relinquish your rights to your attorney upon entering, it is separated from the courts, and I know for a fact, that the unreliable drug tests (or ones who administer the tests), are fraudulent. I know that there are many times and many people just that I know, who went in clean, expecting, clean test, and failed. Asked for the results and got a typed one line from excel sayin NAme………. failed for _________. That is not a test result. Asked for a retest, and got put in jail. It happened over and over to me and to many other people. There is no system of checks and balances. There is no one to go to when a problem like this exists. Once an addict always an addict I guess. No one will listen to you anyways, and definitely not in court. The people running the DC program need to really get looked into. God knows what you all are doing, and you will eventually have to answer to him since you feel its ok to play with people lives, with your lies. Only God can judge me like that. Good luck and God bless anyone in the program or anyone about to enter the program, you will need it.

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