A prison commissary (commissary being a word taken out of context in such situations) or canteen is a store within a correctional facility, from which inmates may purchase products such as hygiene items, snacks, writing instruments, etc. Spices, including those packaged with instant ramen noodles, are a popular item due to the often bland nature of prison food.[1] Typically inmates are not allowed to possess cash;[2] instead, they make purchases through an account with funds from money contributed by friends, family members, etc., or earned as wages. Typically, prisons set a maximum limit of funds that can be spent by each inmate on commissary; in the U.S. federal system, it is $290 per month.[when?][citation needed] It is generally prohibited for inmates to trade items purchased on commissary.[3] However, certain items tend to be used as currency. Cigarettes were a classic medium of exchange, but in the wake of prison tobacco bans, postage stamps have become a more common currency item, along with any inexpensive, popular item that has a round number price such as 25 or 50 cents. As prison budgets are cut in the USA, ramen has become a popular commodity to supplement food needs.[4] Mylar foil packets of mackerel fish or "macks" are one such item.[5] In 1930, the U.S. Department of Justice authorized and established a commissary at each federal institution.[6] Some prison commissaries are staffed by government employees and inmates, while others have been completely privatized. Significant price markups are common in prison commissaries, although some prison systems set maximum markups; for instance, the Delaware Department of Correction has a 20% maximum markup.[citation needed] $100 million in purchases were made from Texas' prison system alone in 2009.[7] Prison commissary is a privilege that is often taken away for infractions.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Giudice, Teresa & Baker, K.C. (2015). Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again. Gallery Books. ISBN 9781501135101. 
  2. ^ "Gainesvillesun.com". Fadp.org. 2004-07-24. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  3. ^ N. Joseph Potts (2008-10-02). "What Prison Really Means". Blog.mises.org. Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  4. ^ http://scienmag.com/ramen-noodles-supplanting-cigarettes-as-currency-among-prisoners/
  5. ^ "Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets". Online.wsj.com. 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  6. ^ "BOP: Inmate Money". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  7. ^ Stiles, Matt (November 23, 2010). "Texas Prison Commissary Sales". Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  8. ^ Giudice, Teresa & Baker, K.C. (2015). Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again. Gallery Books. ISBN 9781501135101. 

External links

Further reading