My husband's first purchases included underwear, not candy or Taster's Choice instant coffee. Other common purchases include thermal underwear (it gets cold where my husband is), over the counter medications, pads of paper and envelopes. Pads of paper were not available one week. My husband was unable to buy stamps in his first visit to the commissary because he couldn't be late for his next appointment and the line was too long. He had to wait until the following week for stamps.
We had to wait another week for a letter from him.
The inmate can purchase up to 300 phone minutes per month, which cost about $70. He can purchase up to 20 stamps at a time.
When I say, "the inmate can purchase," remember that the inmate came to the prison without any money. They are not allowed to bring money because cash enables a black market. The families provide this money...the same family that is doing without the income the inmate used to bring home.
The family, short one income, perhaps all income, must send money to the inmate if they want to receive letters from him or to receive phone calls from him.
It is easy to say that prisoners don't deserve luxuries like thermal underwear or Taster's Choice. But it is cruel to make it difficult for prisoners to communicate with their family and friends. Not only is it cruel to the prisoner, it is cruel to the family, as well.
Think of your own family and how important communication is. The kids need to hear Dad's voice, Mom needs to ask Dad where he filed important papers. Our family had a lot of time between finding out that he would go to prison and the day he surrendered himself at the prison but many families lose someone to the prison system with no warning at all.
For some families, it is a struggle to send money to the inmate, making it difficult to keep in touch. Before our own encounter with the justice system, I had no idea that families sent money to prisoners for very ordinary expenses: stamps, phone minutes.