Ways to Make Money in Prison

by Angela Palm Read author interview December 14, 2015

Work in the chow hall. Work in the woodshop. Make license plates. Wash laundry. Scrub floors. Shelve books in the library. Clean piss pots in the infirmary. Sell images etched onto magnetic mirrors. Sell handmade greeting cards. Braid hair. Trim beards. Make hooch. Ferment wine. Melt chocolate and marshmallows, blend, cool to room temperature, and sell fudge. Mix the chicken Ramen with the plastic packet of fish, crumble crackers on top, microwave, and sell tuna casserole. Sell tattoos. Double the price for colored ink. Sell cigarettes. Sell joints. Sell chewing gum. Sell cash money for commissary dollars. Be a bank; loan commissary money before payday and charge interest. Sell soap. Sell teeth whitening strips smuggled in by a correctional officer who needs extra money to buy Christmas gifts for his kids if anyone will buy them. Sell access to the telephone. Sell anything to anyone who will sell it for you and give you a cut. Sell security. Sell sex. Sell immunity. Sell muscle. Sell weapons. Sell a diversion. Sell death. Sell silence. Sell knowledge. Sell dope. Sell Suboxone. Sell yourself at a parole hearing. Sell another version of yourself in a letter to a woman in Nevada who wants a boyfriend so badly she’ll settle for a man who is one hundred percent physically unavailable. Sell another version beyond that to your mother every other Sunday. Sell cell phones. Sell stamps. Sell hope to anyone dumb enough.

About the Author:

Angela Palm is the author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, winner of the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. The essay collection is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in August 2016. Palm owns Ink + Lead Literary Services and is the editor of Please Do Not Remove, a book featuring work by Vermont writers. Her work has appeared in Brevity, DIAGRAM, Paper Darts, Midwestern Gothic, Sundog Lit, Essay Daily, and elsewhere. She currently teaches creative writing at Champlain College.

About the Artist:

Khánh Hmoong is a photographer from Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.