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A one dollar bill with George Washington's face torn out.
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The problem of inflation and skyrocketing prices of goods is not confined to the outside. Prices are rising in prison too — and with no relief in sight. 

At Western Missouri Correctional Center (WMCC), the consequences of inflation have weighed on many prisoners. In the free world, family and friends we rely upon are now starved for cash. And to save money, inmates in my prison have reduced the number of calls they make and shortened the length of their conversations when they do talk on the phone. 

Recently, I polled prisoners at Western Missouri Correctional Center about their financial situations. I wanted to know how much their finances had fluctuated. 

Many said they had seen a steep decline in income from the outside. Add to that the rise of prices on the inside, and it’s easy to understand why morale is low. 

In Missouri, the base pay for prisoners is $8.50 per month for those with a GED or high school diploma, and $7.50 per month for those without one. According to prisoners familiar with prison wages, some of whom have been incarcerated for over 40 years, these rates have remained the same since the 1980s. Prisoners with no outside support cannot afford staple items or much needed hygiene products, over-the-counter medications and other items. 

Inmates battling inflation have seen canteen prices spike in recent months. For example, a bag of BBQ chips, which was $1.44 in February, is now $1.91. An 8-ounce bag of Folgers was $4.92 in December; today it’s $8.13. And the price of Colgate toothpaste has increased from $2.19 to $3.38. 

Many inmates are going without toothpaste and instead using soap and mouthwash to quell the smell. As a result of the financial hardship, many prisoners at WMCC are experiencing anxiety and hopelessness. 

To cope with inflation and the emotional distress, many inmates have turned to buying and listening to music. For some, music therapy has aided and assisted them with the harsh conditions. 

As for me, I have turned to prayer and reduced my consumption of staple items to help save money until prices fall once again.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Summer Breeze

Summer Breeze is the pen name of a Black trans writer incarcerated in Missouri.