A commissary at a prison or jail is simply a store where inmates may shop for items that are not available through the normal allocation of supplies and meals. The commissary is a privilege bestowed on inmates that permits shopping once a week on a limited spending budget. The Federal Bureau of Prisons currently caps spending at $310 per month, whereas county and state jails usually adhere to a $50 - $75 per week limit.

Inmates must have money in their “inmate trust account” to purchase the available items. Inmates may receive money from the job that they hold in the prison or receive deposits from friends and family through a number of approved money transfer companies. The money sent through InmateAid’s website relationship with Western Union are cleared good funds with an hour of the same day. Other competing methods of sending money to inmates may take days or weeks for the funds to clear.

The commissary offers hundreds of items for an inmate to choose from that surprisingly are NOT given to inmates by the various institutions which include health and well-being supplies (vitamins, rudimentary first aid, aspirin or ibuprofen ALL of which are not counted against your month spending limit), personal hygiene (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.), grooming, AM/FM radio with ear buds, writing materials, postage stamps, a wide array of food that comes in store-able Mylar foil packets with choices of quality tuna, mackerel, salmon, chicken and beef. Also, there are many things to help prepare meals with like a selection of spices, condiments, crackers, chips, cookies, candy and even ice cream. You can also buy cans of soda, tea bags and instant coffee. The commissary offers storage containers, bowls, cups, coolers to use the food you’ve bought. There are also clothing selections for exercising like sweat shirts and pants, tank tops, short, socks and sneakers. You may find several types of work boots available, which are much better quality that the standard issue which makes walking around more comfortable.

This section has relevant other content to answer any question you may have regarding the prison commissary and the “black market” culture where inmate-to-inmate services are paid for with these items. If you are unable to find certain information, don’t hesitate to use the “Ask the Inmate” box and receive an answer from a former inmate immediately…all for FREE.