How Does Commissary Work?

How Does Commissary Work?

Commissary is the system your loved one uses to buy items for personal use while incarcerated. Things available for purchase include: personal hygiene items, clothing, stationary, snacks, cards and electronics. In some cases, you can go to the facility website and see what is on the commissary list and how much each item costs.

County Jails

  • Most jails accept mailed or delivered money orders for your loved one's commissary account. There is a minimum and maximum amount you are allowed to deposit. Contact the jail to find out the allowable amounts, where to send the funds, and what information has to be on the money order. Usually, the inmate's name, inmate number, POD or jail cell location and your name and address are required. Some jails also have a machine where you can use a debit or credit card to put money on the books.
  • Your loved one will have a receipt for the amount on his or her commissary account and will then be able to choose things off the commissary list to buy. The order is placed for delivery. Commissary shopping and deliveries are typically allowed once or twice a week on specific days.


  • If your loved one is in prison, commissary works the same way as jail, except you will also be allowed to buy quarterly packages for him or her. Specially designed quarterly packages have a set price and often include seasonal clothing or other items. For example, a winter box might include a winter coat, long johns, some hot cocoa packets and gloves. Each box has a set price. You choose the box with the contents you want to buy, pay for it online with a debit or credit card, and the box is sent to your loved one. 
  • Many prisons also accept commissary deposits through private corporation websites including:
  • JPay at:
  • Access Secure Deposits at
  • Western Union at:

Be aware that many jails and prisons deduct commissary funds each time your loved one sees a doctor, nurse or dentist. In some cases, commissary funds are withdrawn to pay for things like haircuts and phone time. Also, if your loved one owes money from prior incarcerations or medical/dental services, a percentage of all future commissary deposits could be taken until the debt has been paid. He or she will be told how much is owed and what it is for. You can increase the amount you send to be sure that your loved one still has enough to buy things like snacks, even after the deductions occur.