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Campaign to Stop Financial Exploitation of Prisoners and their Families

WHEREAS, the vast majority of prisoners and their families are poor and have lost their main wage earner, and have depleted their savings paying off high legal fees, court fines and associated costs; and

WHEREAS, prisoners are paid the equivalent to slave or sweatshop wages. For example, the few "high paid" prisoners in Missouri working for Missouri Vocational Enterprises earn only between $.15 to $.71 per hour, while the majority of prisoners in Missouri earn only less than $10 per month for 4 full work weeks; and

WHEREAS, there have been no increases in basic prisoner pay in more than 30 years, while canteen prices have increased each year. These increases include higher prices for basic necessities such as toothpaste, soap, stamps, and envelopes; and

WHEREAS, many prisoners are forced to rely heavily on their families for any financial assistance, when possible; and

WHEREAS, many prisoners are forced to either eat very little and go hungry or purchase supplemental foods from the prison canteen in an effort to have a balanced diet despite unhealthy prison food; and

WHEREAS, prisoners and their families are exploited through canteens, commissaries, and other services that grant monopoly interests to vendors who promise profit sharing to the prisons; and

WHEREAS, prison canteens add excessively high markups to the price of canteen items as well as governmental taxes, forcing prisoners to pay more than the average American consumer; and

WHEREAS, many prisons are housed in remote locations far from prisoners' families, making regular in-person visits virtually impossible. However, some jails and prisons have limited inmates' contact with visitors who are willing to take this arduous journey by restricting or eliminating in-person visits because of the availability of video visitation; and

WHEREAS, many prisoners struggle to keep contact with their family by mail because U.S. Postal rates increase yearly without accounting for indigent prisoners whose monthly allotments are less than the cost of mailing of a single package; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Communication Commission has recognized the exorbitant phone rates paid by prisoners. The FCC has recognized that "[i]n most cases, inmates' telephone calling options are limited to one or more of the following calling types: collect, debit account or pre-paid account. Also, incarcerated persons typically cannot choose their calling provider. These factors, combined with unrestricted rates, have often resulted in unreasonably high phone bills for inmates' families."; and

WHEREAS, it has been found that keeping prisoners connected with their families assists tremendously in their rehabilitation and lowering recidivism, while keeping stress levels lower, which creates a safer environment for both staff and prisoners.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") strongly supports measures that will provide services, canteen, commissary, and telephone rates that are commensurate to outside rates; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls upon prison officials and their families to divest from any interest in prison services, canteen, commissary, and/or telephone companies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP reaffirms its commitment to prisoners receiving a minimum wage and job opportunities that can provide useful training and skills; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP will advocate on the state and national level to ensure that federal and state laws and regulations prohibit the financial exploitation of prisoners.