It is hard to fathom how they got here but the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is charging inmates to read!
As part of their contract with a private company inmates are provided “free” tablets in which they can access Project Gutenberg, an emporium of free, public domain texts.
Sounds great right?
Well, seems like free ain’t free.
From the Appalachian Prison Book Project:
The per-minute charge will bring in far more profit than an e-book vendor who charges a set price for downloads, as the cost to read a book far exceeds the cost to purchase one. And that cost will be especially unfair to new readers and people with dyslexia.
The paperback version of 1984 is about 330 pages. It will take a person who is able to read 30 pages per hour about 11 hours to read the novel. At the discounted $0.03/minute usage fee, 11 hours of reading a free book will cost a person about $19.80—and this is if you don’t stop to think or re-read.
The prison system receives a 5% commission on the revenue from this program.
Oh, and the average wage for a WV prisoner is 30 cents an hour.