Marquel, TPVs NYTimes Welcome Walmart Shoppers Section correspondent, was counting his pennies when he read Prison Vendors See Continued Signs of a Captive Market.
As judges and policy makers debate sentencing changes to curb incarceration, those who sell goods to jails and prisons find little cause for concern. The privatization of jails has encouraged opportunities for increasing profits. Concessions, from which the prison takes a commission, are a reliable source.
At one prison in the northeast, a former barker from Mets Stadium comes through all the sections, including solitary and death row, shouting,
“Foot longs! Getcha foot longs!” He says he hardly ever misses a prisoner.
Another concessionnaire sells beer, screaming,
“Beer here! Beer here!” He too is almost ready to retire on this income.
Marquel went up to the prison.
Another barker was screaming as he went through the prison units. That was pretty surprising. What would the souvenir be, and who would want to buy it? Marquel received permission to hang around the lowest security ward to observe the activities.
“Cielito Lindo.” Not much money there, nor commissions, obviously.
But the next was a Starbucks concession. Prisoners again lined up, some of them with smartphones and apps. What a prison. Some prisoners stood along the side and just worked on their laptops.
I was pretty surprised. I knew I was only seeing the good side of private prisons but it was still an eyeopener. And obviously a cash cow. The next person coming through was shouting,
“KFC KFC KFC!!” Sure enough, groups of three and four were sharing buckets.
“I’m sorry to disturb you. I really am” she started, “I am trying to find a shelter but can’t find one suitable for my baby. I know all of you are busy, serving time and all, and I wouldn’t do this unless I were really desperate, but we’re on the street, not safely locked up like you guys. Anything you can spare would be a help. A penny, a nickel, a quarter, if you have a bill fine. Just God bless you and I pray you never end up like me.”
“come into my cell baby!” But most searched their pockets for something to give.