More than 6,600 prisoners in Texas together donated about $53,000 to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. The donations came from their commissary funds, the limited spending money prisoners have to purchase personal items like snacks, hygiene products, or stamps at the prison commissary store.
Commissary funds are replenished by contributions from friends or family members or by wages inmates can earn in prison jobs. The average daily wage for prison labor in the United States is $3.45 — for eight hours of work, that would be a mere 43 cents an hour — which makes all the more impressive the average inmate's individual Harvey donation of $8 per person.
Some Texas prisoners themselves were among Harvey's victims. As BuzzFeed News reported shortly after the storm hit, "inmates at a federal prison east of Houston lived in squalid conditions, were given minimal amounts of drinking water, and were restricted from freely communicating with loved ones." Prisoners were reportedly kept in flooded cells with backed-up toilets and no air conditioning.