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What Is A Prison Commissary?

For those that have been incarcerated in prison or jail, there are few comforts offered to those who are serving out their sentence. In fact, these environments are like this by design, with bland food and a lack of entertainment as punishments for not following the laws of society. However, institutions realize that prisoners may need a few comforts that mimic life on the outside. For this, theres the prison commissary.

What is the Purpose of a Prison Commissary?

Essentially, a prison commissary is a store where prisoners can purchase items that supplement the basic necessities that prisons provide to inmates. Inmates may either fill out an order form to purchase goods or stand in line during set times to attain items to ease their lives. Depending on the prison, the commissary may be open several times a week to only a few times each month. Those who are in federal prisons or higher-security situations may have their commissary selection and privileges restricted.

When a person is arrested, any money they have on their person is put into their commissary account, which is returned when they leave prison. Family members and friend may contribute money into a prisoners account up to predetermined limits.

One of the main reasons a prison commissary exists is to control contraband from entering a prison. Visitors and lawyers may also try to provide inmates with illegal goods or forbidden items that may be fashioned into weapons or used for illicit purposes (i.e. a battery-operated device may be fashioned into a tattoo-gun). Likewise, prisons make sure that prisoners use their purchases as intendedincluding fashioning it into another purpose or are using it to run a market of their own.

As many inmates also work in prison, they need a place to spend their hard-earned money. This helps create an incentive for workers, especially ones who have a distant release date.

And, at some level, prison commissaries provide these institutions with a profit. However, these profits are generally required by state law to be used to benefit inmates. Some prisons reinvest this money on maintaining a prisons libraries, offering GED classes, or even movie nights that are intended to boost the morale of prisoners.

Whats Offered in a Commissary?

Every prison runs their commissary in a different fashion. Items that are offered may differ based on selection, state regulations, supply, and so forth. Prisons typically have a different selection of commissary items than jail, as the long-term sentences of prison may necessitate items to be longer-lasting and in different quantities. Most commonly found are items like toiletries, writing utensils, food, clothing, small electronics and games.