In the United States, going to jail or prison increasingly comes with a hefty price tag for incarcerated persons. As states continue to cut public spending, individuals are required to cover costs for basic necessities, such as food, health care, and telecommunications. Most have to rely on financial support from friends and family members to make ends meet during incarceration, thus drawing further resources from already vulnerable communities. Based on ethnographic interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals, and on the personal experience of one of the authors with the New York penal system, this article explores the effects of budget cuts and austerity measures on the everyday lives of the incarcerated, as well as the myriad forms of labor that prisoners perform to fill the gaps in institutional commitments.

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