The Prison Hustle

March 30, 2016

I've written before about Entrepreneurs here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp and how they are an active and necessary part of the service, retail, and distribution industry. I've also discovered there is a thriving Black Market of produce that seems to simply walk out of the kitchen. In my job of "veggie prep", I'm the man who cuts the onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, carrots, and tomatoes. It's not unusual,  while in the middle of cutting onions, to notice 4-10 onions gone from my pan should I look away for more than 5 seconds. Some  I try to stop. Others I don't. I've discovered that this underground economy has a name. It's called the Prison Hustle.

 

Here's a little background. It's not uncommon for an inmate to receive little or no financial support from family or friends. Most prison salaries start at $19/month for a 40 hour week. Email can run from $20-$40/month, or stamps $10-$15/month, which means that a visit to the commissary to purchase food or OTC medications is out of the question. So the Prison Hustle is used by some to generate some extra cash flow for the commissary. Onions are traded for stamps, the primary currency, which are exchanged for mixed nuts, sausage or allergy medication.

 

There are legal versions of the Prison Hustle, too. For example, I have a friend here who does laundry for 22 of our 185 inmates every week. It's a perfect fit with his regular job of cleaning, as he has access to the washers and dryers while everyone is locked out. Unfortunately, I need extra commissary money as my salary is spent emailing this blog, so I've been searching for my own legal version of the Prison Hustle. Thankfully I've found it.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly announce that I'm now one of the camp barbers. In the words of my friend, E. Duncan Manning, "I would of course like to  thank all the little people who made this honor possible." It is an unpaid job for which I gladly accept anonymous gifts, usually valued at about $2 worth of something from the commissary.

 

The obvious one word question here is, "Qualifications?" Well......I used to cut my own hair for several years. I cut Walton's hair many times before he cared how he looked, and I cut my dad's hair after he had his stroke. However, to fully sell the Hustle, I needed more credibility. So I subtly let it be known that my dad used to cut hair, which apparently, but strangely gave me instant credibility.

 

To anyone who knew my dad, this might come as a shock. But until 1960, he worked as an embalmer at a funeral home and cut hair all the time. He told me many times, "I can cut your hair, if you'll just lay down. It will look great....on one side."

 

Hopefully this new job will ease my financial strain. Thankfully, I have two important factors working in my favor. First, my client pool is somewhat "captive", and the mirrors here really suck.

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones