The U.S. prison system has an immense economic cost. The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) found that the U.S. government spends $80.7 billion on public prisons and jails and $3.9 billion on private prisons and jails. The annual cost to families of prison phone calls and commissary purchases is $2.9 billion.
There also exists an economy within prisons through the commissary as well as other informal barter markets, where individuals trade for everyday goods and services, such as cigarettes, coffee, books and haircuts to name a few. These are stories about the prison economy, costs of incarceration and other stories about how individuals and their families manage their finances while incarcerated.
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