Report: Cutting prison fees could save incarcerated Virginians and their families $28.3M

Correctional officers stand at the entrance to the Greensville Correctional Center on Nov. 10,...
Correctional officers stand at the entrance to the Greensville Correctional Center on Nov. 10, 2009, near Jarratt, Virginia.(Alex Wong & Virginia Mercury)
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:26 AM EDT
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If the Virginia prison system were to heed the recommendations of reformers who want to make life behind bars less expensive for inmates, it could save prisoners and their families up to $28.3 million per year by shifting those costs elsewhere, according to a new report.

At the General Assembly’s request, a workgroup has been studying the possibility of cutting costs and fees charged to inmates for making phone calls, using tablets to listen to music or play games, accessing the internet, and purchasing food, clothes, and other supplies from commissaries.

In a 54-page report delivered Oct. 1, members of the workgroup who aren’t affiliated with the Virginia Department of Corrections made a variety of recommendations to ease the financial burden on incarcerated people and their relatives, many of whom are low-income. Inmates themselves have little ability to make their own money, the report says, because prison jobs pay a maximum of $54 per month.

Throughout the report, prison officials largely advised against sticking taxpayers with a higher bill and raised security concerns to justify limits on inmates’ contact with the outside world.

The report — the work of VADOC officials, legislators, and advocacy groups that work on prison reform and reentry issues — lays out a detailed menu of options for policymakers to consider in future General Assembly sessions, with recommendations from nongovernmental members contrasted with skepticism from prison officials.

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)