An Inmate’s View of Prison Jobs, By Michael Arce Jr.

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For some inmates, a prison job does not make much difference to them.  They may not need it, or may not even want it.  They are financially stable, either from their own money they have from the streets, or their loved ones sending them money on a regular basis.  Some others have money sent in occasionally, but it might not be enough money to get them through.  So, they take a prison job as a way to make ends meet.  The combination of their meager wages and money that is sent in helps to get them through.  But for others, a prison job is nothing more than a pastime; a way to just stay busy to it seem like time is going fast.

But, for a majority of the prisoners, who have little or no monetary support coming from the outside, a prison job is the difference between life and death (metaphorically speaking).  It is their only means of providing themselves with essentials, such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant,, underwear and clothes, shoes, supplemental food, etc.

The big problem with this arrangement it that the wages are very low; 19 to 42 cents per hour…yet the prices for those essential needs (that must be purchased from the prison commissary) are very high, to insure profitability for the Department of Corrections.  So it is a struggle to just survive, let alone allow for enough to purchase something we might want.

Further, the institutional job is very stressful by design.  The work is hard, and we are under constant performance pressure–all for 19 cents per hour, if we can endure the setup.  The combination of all of these factors can lead to frustration and, sometimes,  depression.  Nonetheless, our incarceration leaves us no other options.

The positive aspect of having a prison job (despite the arduous demands) involves infusing us with a sense of responsibility.  It also teaches us (although minimally) the rewards of hard work.  We gain a sense of pride in obtaining the fruits of our labor.

Previously, we may have cheated, stolen, or scammed our way to getting money–usually from those who worked hard for their earned income.  But with a prison job, we get a first hand glimpse of working to achieve the ability to obtain our needs and wants.  Some prison jobs also provide us with training and a skill set that will be beneficial for us upon our release back into society.  It can help us obtain a job and contribute positively to our community.

As prisoners, the odds are stacked against us.  Statistically speaking, we appear destined to fail.  Like most things in life, however, its all about how we handle the obstacles; we will have our ups and downs, good and bad, positive and negative situations…it is up to us to utilize the downs, the bad stuff, and the negatives as fuel to transform it all to being ups, goods and positives in the world outside of prison–thereby changing our future in society for the better.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can write your comments or just to encourage this man on his journey; he would be very happy to hear from you!  Send your letter or greeting card in a plain white envelope, no metal or foil, address it with his name and DOC # on the first line…Michael Arce Jr,  KR 9642, One Kelly Drive, Coal Township, PA 17866… you must put a return address top left of envelope or it won’t be delivered to the inmate–you can use my ministry return address if you prefer privacy: Prison Mentoring, Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927

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