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Virginia Prisons Could Save Inmates, Families $28M, Report Finds

If the Virginia prison system heeded the recommendations of reformers who want to make life behind bars less expensive for inmates, it could save prisoners and their families up to $28.3 million per year by shifting those costs elsewhere, according to a new report, News from The States reports. At the General Assembly’s request, a work group has been studying the possibility of cutting costs and fees charged to inmates for making phone calls, using tablets to listen to music or play games, accessing the internet and purchasing food, clothes and other supplies from commissaries. Members of the work group not affiliated with the Virginia Department of Corrections made a variety of recommendations to ease the financial burden on incarcerated people and their relatives, many of whom are low-income. Inmates themselves have little ability to make their own money because prison jobs pay a maximum of $54 per month.

Throughout the report, prison officials advised against sticking taxpayers with a higher bill and raised security concerns to justify limits on inmates’ contact with the outside world. The report — the work of corrections officials, legislators and advocacy groups that work on prison reform and reentry issues — lays out a detailed menu of options for policymakers to consider in future General Assembly sessions. Recommendations from nongovernmental members were met with skepticism from prison officials. “While we could not achieve consensus on the recommendations, the department appreciates the insight and feedback from stakeholders,” the corrections department wrote.


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