Bartering in the Federal Prison Camp

Bartering has been around longer than any form of money. This system of exchanging something for something else is still widely used today and especially in the prison camp. It has become the primary way of getting things you need or want.

The bartering between inmates has gone back to the way it was from the beginning. You exchange for everything including personal services, items for items or a special skill people want.

An example of personal services would be someone doing laundry for you, keeping your area clean, and even making your bed. These simple services were usually exchanged for commissary goods or other services.

The item for item is the one most commonly used today, inmates would trade radios for shoes, candy bar for a pack of crackers, bars of soap for shaving cream, etc. Everything was used for trade.

Special skills were one of great value. For example, I was good with calligraphy and other fancy art with lettering. Inmates would bring birthday cards, letters and envelopes to me for signing and personal notes with pretty decorative handwriting for their wives and children. I eventually purchased a calligraphy pen from the arts and crafts department to make things easier and once my name got around it was easy to get things from bartering.

Typing, drawing, writing letters, sewing, etc. you name it, if it was a skill that people needed they capitalized on it. Free enterprise is at its’ finest in a federal prison camp and bartering is one of the greatest resources.


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