There are few things worse than serving time in prison —
except, that is, serving time in a prison thousands of miles from
your home. That is the situation in which nearly two thousand
Hawaiian convicts find themselves as their state leads a national
trend of shipping prisoners to out-of-state low-cost prisons,
J.A. Talvi for In These Times.
Interstate prison transfers have been upheld by the US Supreme
Court, even though the practice most often precludes the
possibility of visits from family members back home. The Hawaiian
inmates at the Otter Creek Correction Center, a women’s prison in
Wheelwright, Kentucky, are practically guaranteed to not see family
until they are released, despite data showing that recidivism rates
increase among inmates who don’t receive visitors. Even a phone
call, for these women, can be a financial impossibility due to
between prisons and phone companies.
Hawaii’s search for a bargain led them to Wheelwright, where the
Corrections Corporation of America operates the prison. The private
company’s offer of incarceration at bargain-basement prices was
just what Hawaii wanted: It costs the state nearly half as much to
have inmates imprisoned in Wheelwright as it does to keep them in
Though this scenario saves the state money, Talvi suggests that
it is ultimately the prisoners who are paying the price. Conditions
in the Wheelwright facility have been described as ‘inhumane’ by
Kat Brady, coordinator of Community Alliance on Prisons in
Honolulu. Sexual abuse and negligent medical care top a list of
problems that have plagued the facility, and investigations are
currently underway after an inmate died when her requests for
medical attention went unheeded for a full month.
This should come as no surprise, however, at a prison that pays
entry-level guards $7.60 an hour — ‘fast-food restaurant wages,’
as Ken Kopczynski, executive director of
Institute, calls them. Indeed, in a postscript to the article,
Talvi reports that Wheelwright prison’s drug counselor was recently
arrested for trafficking in methadone.
— Nick Rose
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Room in Prison? Ship ‘Em Off
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