Entrepreneurial Spirit/Stamp Economy

I have always been the kind of person that is a “dreamer.” I loved to create, to start things. I enjoy the challenge of making things out of nothing. Whether it was starting a company, starting a ministry, taking on an adolescent that most have given up on. I enjoyed the challenge, the thrill. Even with failure after failure, just to experience that little success motivates me. Well, I find I am still that same way in prison. The prison environment encourages inmates to "program" or to work. I don’t have ANY problem with that, as I enjoy work, probably a little too much. I learned early on to stay in contact with family and friends and to eat some comfort food, and a "decent" meal every once in a while is extremely expensive for an inmate. So a few weeks into my incarceration I got my first job which was working in the Chapel as a library clerk. I worked 5 days a week for 4-6 hours a day. It kept me busy but did not supported my financial needs. In prison, pay for common jobs are between $5.00 to $45.00 a month. If you have shifts in the Unicor Factory, you can make $.12 to $.27 an hour. At least, that is the case in this institution. Working at the Chapel for 9 months I got paid $12.00 a month. I switched jobs a few weeks ago to work in Recreation so I can paint more (now it is winter). And I’ve worked my way up to $22.00 a month. Still not enough to live on in prison. So I learned how to "hussle" to make candy taffy and sell it to inmates. This endeavor has grown to making cakes weekly and selling them. Those that know me know I do not cook! I can’t cook. I’m horrible at it. Well another thing I’ve had to learn.
You see, there is no "currency" allowed in prison. So the economy is partially trade for goods or sell for stamps. Yes postage stamps is our currency. And with every currency values go up and down. On the street, first class stamps cost $.55 now. In here, the value a year ago was $.25 and now it has climbed to $.30 to $.35 a stamp. Stamps are obviously reused and reused, so most couldn’t be put on an envelope to mail anymore. You can buy almost anything with stamps. Food, drinks, drugs, tattoos, services, etc. SO I sell taffy and cakes for stamps. And like currency I "sell" stamps to individuals that pay me by purchasing items I select in the Commissary. This has helped a lot by allowing me to buy warmer clothes, shorts to wear to exercise, junk food, and sometimes food to cook on my own in the our common area. This way I don’t have to fully rely on family sending money they earn to support me. It hasn’t totally replaced the need for outside money but it has helped. Plus, it has given me some sense of pride to be able to support myself and maybe someday send money to support my family.