jPay Message #011

I’m watching BETHer in the morning because it’s the best way to hear new, or remind me of old, music. It’s entirely rap, hip-hop, and r&b. During one of the videos, camron (or was it ja rule?) throws a ton of money around, and I realized, slowly and subtly: I haven’t seen actual paper money in almost two years. Currency here is commissary–a bunch of gas station snack foods and hygiene products. Noodles are the cheapest. Coffee, tuna, and ready-made meals are the most expensive, except everyone hates the latter because they’re pretty fucking awful. Things like beef stew and pizza stored at room temperature and cooked in a microwave. Coffee comes in a variety of prices and quality. The black bag is $3.00 and tastes like bitter toilet water; the yellow bag, by far the most common, gets you chalky Starbucks for $3.64; and at the high end, there’s Maxwell House espresso for $4.85. Likewise, I’ve memorized the prices for every item on the store (tuna is $4.52, most chips are $1.29, duplex cookies $1.89). Technically, its against MDOC policy for prisoners to give or receive commissary items to each other–you can’t just put together a transfer in a laundry bag and deliver it in front of a CO. Transporting goods across the yard is trickier because it’s expressly forbidden and you’ve more terrain to cover. If you’re trying to buy some shit or pay someone back in another unit, you have to stuff your pants and shirt with chips, coffee, cookies, etc. (Coffee is ideal for this because of its high price and compact size.) The winter alleviates this difficulty (slightly) because a coat provides cover, rendering your smuggling less conspicuous. The equivalent of throwing bands is a couple bags of coffee and fish packages. When you got that, a little candy, a couple chips, and some things to cook up with then, you’re really jailin’.

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