Pennsylvania Prison Society - December 15, 2022
The prices incarcerated people pay for toiletries, over-the-counter medication, food, and other essential goods not provided by the state recently shot up by a staggering amount, even by the standards of soaring inflation in the outside world.
The cost of products sold in Pennsylvania state prison commissaries increased 26.7 percent this year, a new Prison Society analysis has found. By comparison, a report issued earlier this week by the federal government found that prices have increased in the greater economy by 7.1 percent in the past year. The disparity is compounded by the fact that while wages have risen in the world outside, the paltry earnings incarcerated people receive for prison labor have remained flat.
The DOC says that the steep price hike is the unavoidable consequence of inflation, shortages of certain goods, and snags in the supply chain that have plagued the economy since the pandemic. A spokesperson also notes that the DOC has not raised prices since 2018, and during the pandemic took “a loss on the sale of certain items” to keep the prices down.
But questions have been raised about how correctional systems and their corporate suppliers may profit from commissary sales and take advantage of the captive market behind bars. In Pennsylvania’s state prisons, incarcerated people feel that the DOC could do more to ease the shock of the massive price increases.
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