The Cost of Reading in Prison: In West Virginia it’s 5 cents a minute February 5, 2020 – Posted in: Banned / Censored / Destroyed, Books and Technology, Content, Reading / Literacy
It is hard to fathom how they got here but the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is charging inmates to read!
As part of their contract with a private company inmates are provided “free” tablets in which they can access Project Gutenberg, an emporium of free, public domain texts.
Sounds great right?
Well, seems like free ain’t free.
From the Appalachian Prison Book Project:
The per-minute charge will bring in far more profit than an e-book vendor who charges a set price for downloads, as the cost to read a book far exceeds the cost to purchase one. And that cost will be especially unfair to new readers and people with dyslexia.
The paperback version of 1984 is about 330 pages. It will take a person who is able to read 30 pages per hour about 11 hours to read the novel. At the discounted $0.03/minute usage fee, 11 hours of reading a free book will cost a person about $19.80—and this is if you don’t stop to think or re-read.
The prison system receives a 5% commission on the revenue from this program.
Oh, and the average wage for a WV prisoner is 30 cents an hour.
Of course, there are layers of censorship too! how-to guides (carpentry, starting a business, repairing small engines, etc.), contemporary fiction, popular mysteries and sci-fi, African American literature, Native studies, recent autobiographies—will not be available.
- Dr. Rebecca Ginsburg (Education Justice Project), Dr. Katy Ryan (APBP), Jodi Lincoln (Book ‘Em), and Michelle Dillon (Human Rights Defense Center and Books to Prisoners), “High Tech, Low Accountability: How Do We Fight Back Against Prison Tablets and Prison Censorship?,” 2019 National Conference of Higher Education in Prison
- Michael Walters, “The Outrageous Scam of “Free” Tablets for the Incarcerated,” The Outline
- Tonya Riley, “‘Free’ Tablets Are Costing Prison Inmates a Fortune,” Mother Jones
Photo above Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star