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Stay in Faith, A better life is on the horizon

Social Justice Blog

Social Justice Blog

Collateral Damage: The victimization of mothers of incarcerated children for the profit of entrepreneurial prisons

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Gust (2009) purports that, “the government has a duty not to harm innocent people,including children of incarcerated parents.”  If so, does not this duty apply to parents who are victimized for the crimes of their child?  Parents of incarcerated children suffer financial burdens, emotional stress, and ostracism by the policies in place in the penal system (Simmons,2012).  Due to the demographics of the prison population as explained in previous blogs, minority mothers are burdened by the judicial system more than any other segment of the population.  Added to the burden is their unintentional financial support to a carceral system which is now predominantly run as for profit corporations. This blog will briefly discuss the financial policies that victimizes mothers whose child is in the entrepreneurial carceral system.

One would think that once a child becomes part of thecarceral system their basic needs would be sustained by the carceral system which placed them there.  Claims of the unsustainable cost of mass incarceration is becoming more prevalent in the media. Such claims only reports the cost to the government but the undisclosed fact is that whether the prisoner is an adult or under age, mothers are financially burdened. Once incarcerated, children never grow up but rely on their mothers for support to attain their basic needs.  Costs deferred to the low income mothers are basic needs such as providing funds for soap, shampoo, deodorant, underwear, socks, coats and shoes.  Additionally, the cost of stationary, stamps and envelopes should be included in these basic needs since they establish a means of continual communication between mother and child.  Ancillary income for entrepreneurial prisons are established through prison-based commissaries which sell toiletries, junk food, electronics, clothing, coats and shoes.  Even gift packages must be purchased through Walkenhorst ,the authorized prison mercantile catalog which offers approved items for purchase depending on the prisoner’s status.

Payments are made to the prisoners' trust account which has been established by the carceral system to accommodate the receipt of funds from mothers,wives, children or other relatives. Since prisoners are not allowed direct access to money, J-Pay an online or on-site banking system provides electronic transfers of funds.  The J-Pay system has been established throughout theState, Federal and local prison system.  Trust accounts are subject to immediate deduction of retribution payment.  This practice ostensibly transfers the cost of retribution to the mothers rather than the prisoner.  So, when mothers send funds for their child's basic needs, these needs may not be met. Any monies sent are subject to withdrawal by the prison for payment (an amount determined by the prison) of the prisoner’s debt (retribution).  Clearly under the definition of misappropriation, the policies practiced by prisons are an exercise in the misappropriation of funds.   

The problem is low income and single-mothers are subsidizing the entrepreneurial imprisonment machine.  The government’s duty to do no harm is further circumvented by allowing prisons to charge for sustaining the needs of the mother’s incarcerated child for the profit of an entrepreneurial carceral system.


Gust, L. V. (2012). Can policy reduce the collateral damage caused by the criminal justice system? Strengthening social capital in families and communities. American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry, 82(2), 174-180. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01156.x

Simmons, M. (2011). Voices on the Outside: Mass Incarceration and the Women Left Behind. International Journal Of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6(4), 71-83.

All rights reserved Copyright © 2014 Jamillah M. Grant


Categories: Reflection