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Some inmates seeking justice don't get it.

Byline: Clive McFarlane

COLUMN: CLIVE MCFARLANE

Number 0682297, a resident of the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, sent me a letter recently detailing what he claims to be a "price gouging/fixing scheme" at the jail.

The letter was quite impressive, befitting a well-researched lawyer's brief, really.

It claims that in addition to charging inmates exorbitant prices, Keefe Commissary Network, which is under contract to sell goods to prisoners at the jail, regularly sells out-of-date products, and seems to be violating the Fair Trade Act by breaking up multi-packs of items clearly labeled "not for individual sale."

Not only is the KCN and the jail exploiting prisoners, but "they are exploiting the tax paying families of those prisoners that send in as much money as they can afford in attempt to try and ease the misery and suffering of their loved ones," according to Number 0682297.

The Fair Trade Act?

Isn't it peculiar how some lawbreakers tend to develop a keen sense of right and wrong once they are behind bars?

Well, Number 0682297, all I can tell you is to stop wasting your time hoping for better conditions at the jail. Listen to your boy Red in the Shawshank Redemption. Hope is a dangerous thing.

You should know that, according to the courts, you don't have any right to complain about food prices under the First, Fourth, Fifth or Eighth Amendments.

"There is simply no legal basis for a demand that inmates be offered items for purchase at or near cost," the courts ruled in one case, French v. Butterworth.

So you see, Number 0682297, it is best you stop working up a lather over the fact that 3 oz. Chicken Ramen Soup, a major gambling currency at the jail, jumped "overnight" from 12 cents to 90 cents a pack.

Rehabilitation is impossible if you keep feeling hurt over the fact that you are paying $30 for a Sony Walkman, while you believe your colleagues in the Rhode Island Department of Correction system are paying just over $18 for the same item.

Sure, some people might question the jail's motive in stocking its commissary with $60 Reeboks and such luxury items. It's not like we are running an NBA camp up there. But hey, if the "ballers" behind bars want to keep up appearances, let them, I say.

Don't you see, Number 0682297? The more money you spend behind bars, the less we the taxpayers will have to contribute to your upkeep.

The jail is getting a whopping 38 percent off KCN gross sales at the commissary, and with gross sales topping almost $800,000 last year, you can see the potential for just how much relief your spending money at the commissary could bring taxpayers.

I don't know how long you have been locked away Number 0682297, but we on the outside are being crushed under the weight of a housing crisis, banking scandals and corporate swindles.

Right now, it's every man for himself, and let's face it, Number 0682297, you are, well, not even a man. You are just a number, so please act like one.

That would be in the best interest of Keefe Commissary Network, whose entire business brand is focused exclusively on your "unique market," and whose dedicated staff is committed to bringing you "unparalleled quality service and products."

It would be in the best interest of the Worcester County Jail, which has mandated that - outside of the daily three-square meals, one-time clothing allowance and necessary medical services it provides - everything else an inmate needs must be bought at the commissary.

Family members and friends are not allowed to bring inmates anything they can get at the commissary, which pretty much stocks everything the inmates are allowed to have.

My recommendation to you, Number 0682297, is to convince family members, friends and colleagues on the outside to deposit as much money as they can in your commissary account.

In the meantime, avoid an early release from jail at all costs, because a recession in the prison economy is the last thing we need right now. Stay away from the jail's law library. Spend more time in the hole and stop acting like you are more than a number.

Contact Clive McFarlane via e-mail at cmcfarlane@telegram.com
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 16, 2009
Words:715
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