To be straight up with you, not much is different from the world from inside of these walls economically. It just depends on how you choose to look at it. In these warehouses of men, there are rich people and poor people in here; the haves and the have nots. There are upper class, middle class and lower class. Even certain social circles reflect wealth, or the lack thereof. It’s not unlikely to find investors, business owners, employees, petty hustlers, consumers and those we’d normally classify as homeless, had the administration not assigned them to a cell. 

With an advanced eye in economics, you can peep the sway of negotiations by those oblivious to a buyers/sellers market.  Supply and Demand still rules, and it’s not hard to view the 10% who control the 90%, consciously and unconsciously.

Listen, a lot of dudes be talking that money talk, 600 Benz’s, Gucci this, Fendi that, the rich living lavishly and whatnot. And all that’s cool. But a lot of dudes don’t talk that money talk for real – I’m talking ’bout money mechanics, identifying financial fluidity in a given environment, understanding money as it relates to currency, assets, commodities, etc. It’s rare to find one I can build with about the that coin.

I lay back in my rack some nights and marvel at the economic structure of this environment.

Unlike in society however, we operate with the barter system. And what’s so ironic about it is that these are one of the rare things that makes sense in here – it’s the more plausible means of doing business, in comparison, of course, to the structure that accepts a sheet of paper as the means of currency, which we use to purchase things of value. Doesn’t really make much sense, but what does? In here, items of value are traded for items of value. 

Things that are classified inaccessible have the highest value, then it’s food, hygiene and stationary items. There are levels to what has value and what doesn’t. Some things have high value. Some things low. But what I can appreciate is that things that have no value are not accepted, period. And we clearly determine what doesn’t have value. Two packs of cookies and a Pepsi costs $2.50. The homie across the tier might let you get that for a Colgate and a deodorant, which costs like $6. But a container of Fish Oil Omega pills that costs like $10, $11 won’t get you shit! The homies won’t even give you a .50 bag of chips for that shit. Cigarettes were up there, between food and hygiene before the government banned them sometime around ’08, ’09. 

Every unit of every institution I’ve ever been housed in is a community of sorts, a microscopic version of what we know in society. There are shops where one can purchase meals and desserts. You might find an ABC spot depending on who you are. Loan sharks will issue you a line of credit, depending on the rep you have on your name. I’ve met artists so gifted and innovative, they’d give Hallmark a run for their money, word. Repair shops, tattoo parlors and barber shops are a dime a dozen. And what’s a penitentiary without good betting? Poker, tunk, dice, shit, you can fill a commissary bag off the spades table if you got a partner who knows how to push ’em. Bookies’ll post a bet on any game of any sport other than hockey, soccer and golf. 

These are the communities with good economic upside. The money flows generously. I’ve been housed in poverty-stricken communities too, where the cash flow just seems…stale. 

The only thing I’ve seen cause environments like those are prisons that have a strict limit on how much you can spend at commissary. Commissary is normally once a week everywhere I’ve been, though I’ve heard institutions that do commissary twice a month. I was once housed in SHU (Structured Housing Unit) on some “non privilege,” shit and the spending limit was only $25. That can only cover the bear necessities and maybe a snack or two. 

Tension, frustration and violence are the temperaments of environments like these, as the wolves normally distinguish themselves from their prey. But for the most part, aside from situations where one obviously wants more for less, value will always be exchanged for value. This has so much significance to me because I plan to be affluent out there when I touchdown. Certain ideas, beliefs and concepts about money I’d study, apply it, then record my results. So I give heavy thought to the U.S. Dollar, with more concern than want of understanding. What is a dollar? In all actuality, it’s nothing more than a promissory note – a promise to pay. Pay what? I guess something of value. Again, how much sense does that make? This green/bluish paper with a dead president on its face, serial numbers to banks and accounts I don’t have access to and symbols that represent things that aren’t of my interest. I find it bizarre that the Department of Corrections taught me more about money than Uncle Sam has. 


Andre Coe #1182513

Sussex II State Prison
24427 Musselwhite Drive
Waverly, VA 23891-2222