Why Commissary is Important

Commissary funds are deposited to an inmate’s account so he or she can purchase personal hygiene items, stationery supplies and snacks. Some lists also offer clothing, electronics, books and phone cards, among other things.

A Relief from Hunger

Inmates are typically fed two to three meals a day. The ingredients are high in calorie and carbohydrate content but not very tasty. The other problem is, in some jails there can be a long wait between “dinner” and breakfast. For example, some jails serve dinner at 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. and then breakfast at 4:00 a.m. the next day. Your inmate probably gets pretty hungry during those hours. Commissary snacks stashed away in the cell provide some relief during that long wait.

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Disrupting Monotony

Time in jail drags. Most inmates look forward to commissary ordering day. It is not uncommon to see them sitting at a table, debating what the best snacks are or which shampoos works the best. Having a commissary account helps break up the week by giving your inmate something to talk about, think about, and purchase. While these might not seem like major decisions outside of jail, but inside inmates have so little control over their lives that commissary choices become very important.


Commissary items get traded. The day the boxes and bags arrive, the PODS are buzzing with laughter and discussions. As the commissary gets opened inmates talk about what they got and if they have a friend on the unit they might share an item or two. Inmates carefully guard their commissary items, but on commissary day sharing may take place.

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A Word of Caution: While commissary is important to an inmate, it can also be a problem. Drugs and gambling are rampant throughout US jails and prisons. Because they cannot have cash, the inmates use commissary items to gamble or to buy drugs smuggled in by guards and trustees. Make sure you deposit only enough for a few daily snacks and the monthly personal hygiene and stationery supplies.




About Mark Miclette 682 Articles
writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.