Hurricane Harvey left thousands along the Texas coastline with water-ruined homes, months of cleanup, and enough hardship to move an unlikely group of people to donate—prisoners.
The hurricane, which hit Texas on Aug. 25, killed over 89 people as it dumped 40 inches of rain on Texas over four days. Around 30,000 people fled their homes, many of whom would lose everything.
Much of the still-being-calculated economic cost of Harvey would be felt by uninsured homeowners.
The destruction was enough to move 6,663 prisoners in Texas to donate continually over the month of September to help rebuild the Lone Star State.
Like so many other people across the country, prisoners donated to the Red Cross to help those hurt by the storm. Unlike many of those other people, however, prisoners can’t simply call up a nonprofit and make a donation through their credit cards.
Instead, they donated through one of the few legal avenues left to them to exchange value for goods—their prison commissary.
“At prison commissaries, inmates use funds from electronic accounts to buy food, personal hygiene products, and miscellaneous items such as paper and pens,” reads a Texas corrections department Facebook post.
“Family and friends can put money into these accounts online or purchase goods for inmates,” it says.
Around 145,000 offenders had access to donation spots at commissaries and while not all of them donated, enough did to raise over $53,000.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice—which overseas public and private jails and prisons in the state—posted fliers outside the commissaries in 104 of its facilities. Prisoners could donate a dollar or more.
On average, those that donated gave $8 while the largest donation was $300.
By the end of September, prisoners had donated enough for the department to mail a check for $53,863 to the American Red Cross.
The donation comes as Texas struggles with the aftermath of the most destructive hurricane in over a decade, and the second most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history, second only to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Prisoners also donated to the Red Cross to help with recovery efforts then as well. Texas inmates donated more than $40,000 to the Red Cross in 2005, the department wrote on its Facebook post.
Texas correctional facility staff were also victims of the hurricane. Their situation prompted fellow correctional officers in Texas and across the country to lend support.
Individuals, businesses, organizations and other correctional associations donated over $67,000 to help criminal justice employees hit by the storm.
— TDCJ (@TDCJ) October 4, 2017
“The generosity shown is truly remarkable,” wrote Bryan Collier, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in a tweet.