What Do You Need To Know About The Prison Commissary? Part 1

What Do You Need To Know About The Prison Commissary? Part 1
By Richard McDonald

Commissary is a must in prison. Sure, you could survive on the standard three meals a day. But if you want to have anything extra or of some quality, commissary is the best option.

Commissary offerings in prison vary by location. Some prisons have very good commissary offerings, while others have limited options. In my experience, I was told that we had one of the best commissaries in the prison system.

When can you visit the prison commissary?

Prisoners may shop once a week for general items. You can buy medical items daily.

Before COVID, prisoners could go to the store at their leisure on the day their housing unit is called. Now, prisoners report by name to the store. Prisoners go to the store in groups, determined by housing unit.

Usually, the commissary schedule rotates for different housing units. For example, week one your housing unit will go to the commissary on Monday. In week two, your housing unit will go Tuesday. In week three, your housing unit will go on Wednesday, and so forth.

An inmate wears boots purchased at the prison commissary.
Image courtesy of Thank you for your assistant on Getty Images via iStock.

Will you need to buy shoes?

No, but I recommend it. Shoes and boots are an essential item while in prison. When you first report, you’ll receive standard prison-issued boots. These boots are not the most comfortable. They are hard as rocks and can cause your feet to get blisters if you wear them long-term.

A pair of nicer boots from the commissary will run you between $70 and $100. The more you spend, the better the quality. If you have a job on the grounds or in landscape, making an investment in boots is a good idea.

You are not issued a pair of tennis shoes upon arrival at the prison. You’re not allowed to bring in your own pair. If you want to engage in any type of fitness regimen, athletic shoes are a must. Shoes start at $49 and can run up to $100 a pair.

There are a wide variety of name brand shoes available, such as Adidas, Nike and Converse. The commissary lists walking, basketball and running shoes.

Shoe purchases usually take about three weeks to arrive. The commissary does keep a limited supply of shoes in stock. There are times when shoes are available at a discounted price.

Does the prison commissary have postage supplies?

Yes. Stamps, legal envelopes, and copy cards are available in the commissary. Prisoners can get writing pads and letter-sized envelopes at no cost. The unit team provides these free items. One book of stamps per week is the limit you can buy, unless approved by staff.

Copy cards, used to make copies in the prison library, cost $6.50. In the prison where I served, each copy cost 10 cents, which is then deducted from the copy card. The copy machine is popular in prison. Prisoners use it for legal and general resources.

Photo tickets are also available for $1.00. Once a month, the recreation department will take photos for prisoners to send to their families.

The Takeaway:

The commissary is a store where you can buy items that will make your time a little easier or more comfortable. There is a certain schedule when you can go to the prison commissary, and there are limits on what you can buy.

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