Finally, the Connecticut legislature has passed a bill that goes a long way toward giving inmates gate pay. Currently, inmates in Connecticut are released from prison without any money whatsoever and are dropped off in the center of either of the large cities (Hartford or New Haven). Then, they are left to their own devices. I have long maintained that this policy is counter-productive, so I am quite glad to see that there is something being done.
The provisions are that 10% of all inmate earnings will automatically be transferred to a “savings” account, the contents of which will be available to the inmate at the time of release.
Battling recidivism rates and grappling with preparing thousands of inmates for release, several states have set up similar “discharge accounts” for inmates. The hope is that such a reserve, along with other measures, will facilitate a quicker transition to a law-abiding life, and, in turn, stop the recycling of inmates through the court and prison systems.
Obviously, as with all state laws that deal with inmates, there is a catch. Once the account reaches $1000, it will stop accruing money and the 10% will instead be deducted to reimburse the state’s cost of incarcerating the inmate.
Department of Correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz, who tried four previous times to push the law through the legislature, hopes mandatory savings will impress upon the system’s roughly 18,800 inmates the importance of setting aside money for re-entry, instead of “spending money on honey buns” in the prison commissary.”At least it will get the offender some pocket change,” Lantz said. “Hopefully they’ll use it for the right reasons.”
But ofcourse, this is a meager step (albeit a good first step). Inmates rarely make any money in prison even if they want to. The maximum they can earn in CT prisons is $1.75 per hour.
“Ten percent?” said Janette Rodriguez, another former inmate, who for years bounced in and out of jail but is now drug-free. “I think that’s crazy. Some people in jail, they make $5.35 a week.” Pay in the facilities can range from 75 cents a day to $1.75 an hour or slightly more, depending on the position.
Without any outside help, inmates with shorter jail or prison terms, like Anthony [another inmate], would have trouble earning enough to make a significant difference in quality of life, some former inmates say. The savings accounts will not bear interest, said Brian Garnett, a Department of Correction spokesman.
“If you could come out for $1,000, it just sounds like you’d have to be in there for years,” Rodriguez said.
That you would, Ms. Rodriguez, that you would.
One other important provision is the DOC working with DMV to provide inmates with some sort of identification upon release. For without ID, how is the inmate to cash the cheque? Overall, I like the idea, but it has a long way to go to be effective and truly useful.