Indigent Limits

10/28/19

Members of the Washington State Legislature are meeting on 11/21/19 at 3:30 pm to discuss raising the current indigent limit from $10 to $25.

The ask is for people to email State Rep. Roger Goodman ( Roger.Goodman@leg.was.gov) and State Sen. Jeanie Darneille (J.Darneille@leg.was.gov) in support of the increase.

This is an action my fellow prisoners are very excited about and would like to see happen, let me explain why:

It would be helpful to people incarcerated in the WA DOC to have the indigent limit increased because this is the amount that determines if we can get certain services from the WA DOC. For example, if I have had $9.99 or less on my general spendable account in the last 30 days then I am allowed to incur a debt to buy indigent envelopes, but if I have had $10 or more on my general spendable account in the last 30 days then I have to pay for envelopes and cannot incur a debt to get them even if at that moment in time I have zero dollars on my account.

The indigent limit is also the minimum amount the WA DOC has to leave on my general spendable account when they are charging me random fees. For example, if someone sends me money the WA DOC takes a percent of it for previous debts, cost of incarceration, and for the victims compensation fund. For different people this percentage varies. For me it is 55%, for someone with no debts it could be as low as 25% and for someone with child support it could be as high as 95%. Well, the indigent limit is the minimum amount the WA DOC has to leave in my account when they are taking money for these things.

Because of this it is a common thing for incarcerated people to have money sent in just under the indigent limit. I personally do this because these are my debts, the people who support me should not be paying them. Other people have their own reasons. This is what is causing me to live so frugally. I will have $10 sent to my general spendable account and $20 or so sent to my other SubAccounts that don’t have money taken from them. Last year and the year before I had about $75 sent in. This year I’ve been a lush and had about $120 sent in total. I’ve incurred $95 worth of indigent debt over the course of the last 3 years by buying envelopes, soap, and other basic necessities which I will pay off whenever I get a job.

By having this limit increased from $10 to $25 I will vastly simplify my life and be more cost effective for the people who support me. One of the things I use the money I am sent for is to buy shampoo and conditioner, at $6 each. This means I have to have two $10 money orders sent at different times and buy shampoo then conditioner about a month apart. Each time the people who support me send me money it costs them roughly $4 or $5 in transfer fees. So to send me $20 it’s costing my loved ones $8 to $10. If the indigent limit was increased then they would send me one $25 money order and that would cost them $5 and I would bear to buy all my hygiene supplies at the same time. Multiply this by three times per year and that is the same amount of money I managed to live on for two years.

Increasing the indigent limit will not effectively change the way things are functioning and it will be a recognition of inflation making life easier for incarcerated people.

Now, if we want to make this an abolitionist reform, then we need to also get rid of the limitation that says one person outside prison is only allowed to monetarily support one person in a Washington prison. This limitation hamstrings the ability for charitable organizations to support the incarcerated people they do the work with. If there is a team of five incarcerated people working with one person outside the prison to create positive change, that person outside the prison is only allowed to send things like typewriter ribbons and postage money to one of those five people. Unless those five incarcerated people are very good at practicing accountability and group trust, this can create a difficult situation for them and if the person on the outside forgets the rule (which happens) and accidentally sends one of the other four $10, then the outside supporter will have their communications blocked by the WA DOC.

This fosters disconnections and engineers scarcity. This is not okay.

So please, tell State Rep. Roger Goodman ( Roger.Goodman@leg.was.gov) and State Sen. Jeanie Darneille (J.Darneille@leg.was.gov) to support an increase to the indigent limit and a removal of the limitation of people outside prison are each only allowed to support one person inside prison.

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