By Randy Radic
Christopher Zoukis, a 27-year-old federal prisoner, is the
author of Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win
Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012), a contributing writer
for Prison Legal News, and a regular
commentator on prison matters in the penal press. He has navigated the troublesome waters of
incarceration for the past 8 years, in both federal and state prisons and at
the medium and low security levels.
Today I sit down with Mr. Zoukis to discuss the complex issue of
determining how much money family members and friends of the incarcerated
should send to those in prison.
Randy Radic: In
my duties as the senior editor at Middle Street Publishing and the chief editor
of the Prison Law Blog, I often receive inquiries from family members and
friends of the incarcerated concerning how much money is appropriate to send to
those in prison. I find this question
hard to answer since it is so subjective.
What are your thoughts on how much money is appropriate to send
incarcerated friends and family members?
Subjective is most certainly the word here.
The first two questions those outside of prison should ask are: What
prison system is their loved one or friend incarcerated within and what is the
allowable monthly or weekly spending limit at the prison (if any)? This should be the starting point of any
determination on how much money is appropriate to send to an incarcerated loved
one or friend.
My experience is with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the
North Carolina Department of Corrections.
As such, I can provide specific information for these two prison
systems. In the Federal Bureau of
Prisons, federal prisoners can spend $320 per month ($370 in November and
December) on commissary items. This
doesn’t include over-the-counter medications, copy cards, or postage
stamps. In the North Carolina Department
of Corrections, prisoners can spend up to $40 per week in the institutional
With these numbers in mind, anything up to $320 per month
for federal prisoners and $160 per month for prisoners in the North Carolina
Department of Corrections would allow them to live very comfortably. This would easily place them in the top one
percent of those incarcerated within the respective prison systems.