fila polo shirts What can inmates buy in jail
They’ll say the food is notoriously bland and inmates are provided only the barest essentials to get through the mind numbing hours spent in their cell.
For some prisoners, a trip to the jail commissary, a small store that sells food and supplies, might provide a small slice of happiness at an otherwise bleak point in their lives.
Curiosity surrounding the April incarceration of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain who killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, led to published reports about the various products Zimmerman picked up at commissary to make his stay a little more bearable.
An NBC News report found Zimmerman picked up $98.90 worth of snacks including Cheetos, Jolly Rangers, Twix as well as undergarments, aspirin and stationary in his first two days at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Fla.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Frank Leonbruno said inmates rarely spend as much on commissary purchases as Zimmerman at the local level.
He said the idea behind commissary is to control contraband more than anything else.
Leonbruno said gifts from visitors to inmates are problematic, hence the need for commissary.
“Sometimes people will try to bring in a book, but they’ll drop liquid drugs onto a page and send their friend a letter telling them to suck on the top corner of page 10,” he said.
Oftentimes, contraband can be even more dangerous than drugs as attempts to smuggle in matches or weapons in seemingly innocuous gifts such as greeting cards do sometimes happen.
For that reason, the jail operates commissary four days a week, giving inmates the privilege to spend their own money on items the jail knows are safe.
“When you’re arrested, any money you have on you is put on your commissary account,” Leonbruno said. “You get back any money left on the account when you leave.”
Leonbruno said family members and friends can also contribute $30 at a time to an inmate’s account and that prisoners can visit the store once a week.
Inmates can select from a limited array of snacks and personal hygiene products that supplement the basic items furnished free of charge.
“We provide a bar of soap, shaving cream and other basic items when someone comes to jail,” Leonbruno said. “If someone wants a better shampoo or toothpaste or a different soap, they can buy them at commissary.”
At the Geauga County Jail, inmates are allowed to spend up to $60 a time at the store, which is open twice a week.
Jail Administrator Lt. Kathy Rose said since January, the top selling items have been tuna fish, instant soups, protein bars and, not surprisingly, coffee.
“Coffee is always a good seller because they can’t get it otherwise,” Rose said.
According to Rose, the size of an account, and how much is spent on commissary purchases, varies wildly from one inmate to the next, so estimating an average is difficult.
“Some people use it as a grocery store and buy a lot, others pick out just their very basic needs,” Rose said.
According to Leonbruno, selection at state prison commissaries is far wider than at a local jail since prisoners are housed at those facilities for a longer period of time. Items available at prisons could include clothes, shoes, and in some cases, even small electronics.
According to a Dayton Daily News report, Ohio prisoners spent $38 million on commissary purchases last year on items that are marked up about 25 percent, on average.
Although commissaries exist to limit crime within the facilities, Rose said officers are always vigilant to be sure the products purchased are used only for their intended purposes.
“If (an inmate) bought 20 cans of soup today and another 20 tomorrow, it would be confiscated,” Rose said. “We make sure they’re not storing it or trading it with other inmates for any reason.”
In addition to snacks, Leonbruno said games playing cards, checkers and chess sets are popular items to help inmates spend the long hours stuck in their cells.
“Imagine spending 30 days stuck in your living room,” he said.
“Even if you have HBO, which our inmates do not, you’ll go a little stir crazy.”
Commissaries also might be of use when inmates prepare for life on the outside. Rose said the store offers RTA bus passes for those who need it.
“A lot of our inmates, when they get released, don’t have a ride home,” Rose said.
Regardless of how much money inmates spend, jails and prisons do not make a profit from commissary. By state law, all money made from the store must directly benefit the inmates.