What is Inmate Commissary
What is Inmate Commissary

Inmate Commissary 101 – Everything You Want to Know

Inmate commissary is an essential aspect of prison life that plays a significant role in meeting the basic needs of incarcerated individuals. Understanding how the inmate commissary system works is crucial for both inmates and their families. This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you want to know about inmate commissary, from its purpose to the items available for purchase and the process of ordering.

What is Inmate Commissary?

Inmate commissary refers to a store within a correctional facility where inmates can purchase various items using their personal funds. These stores are typically located within the prison or jail and offer a range of products that meet the basic needs and some wants of incarcerated individuals.

The Purpose of Inmate Commissary

The primary purpose of an inmate commissary is to provide incarcerated individuals with access to essential items that the correctional facility may not provide. These items include personal hygiene products, snacks, stationery, clothing, and more. By allowing inmates to purchase these items, the commissary system aims to maintain a sense of normalcy and improve the overall well-being of the inmate population.

How Does Inmate Commissary Work?

The inmate commissary system operates on a prepaid basis. Inmates can deposit funds into their commissary accounts, typically through money sent by their families or earned through prison work programs. These funds are then used to purchase items from the commissary store.

To ensure fairness and security, many correctional facilities have established a limit on the amount of money an inmate can spend or the number of items they can purchase within a given time period. Inmates usually place their orders by filling out a commissary request form and submitting it to the prison staff.

Inmate Commissary Items: What Can You Buy?

The range of items available for purchase in the inmate commissary can vary between facilities. However, there are some common categories of products that are typically available. These include:

  1. Personal Hygiene Products: Inmates can purchase items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and razors to maintain personal cleanliness.
  2. Food and Snacks: The commissary store offers a selection of snacks, beverages, and packaged food items that inmates can enjoy.
  3. Stationery and Writing Supplies: Inmates can buy paper, pens, envelopes, stamps, and other writing supplies to correspond with their loved ones.
  4. Clothing and Footwear: Basic clothing items like socks, underwear, t-shirts, and shoes may be available for purchase in the commissary.
  5. Electronics and Entertainment: Some correctional facilities may offer a limited range of electronics, such as radios and MP3 players, as well as playing cards and board games for recreational purposes.

How to Order from Inmate Commissary?

Ordering from the inmate commissary usually involves the following steps:

  1. Account Funding: The inmate or their family needs to deposit money into the inmate’s commissary account. This can often be done through money orders or electronic funds transfer.
  2. Commissary Request Form: The inmate fills out a commissary request form, indicating the desired items and quantities.
  3. Submission: The completed form is submitted to the prison staff or the commissary department.
  4. Processing: The commissary staff reviews the request form and processes the order.
  5. Delivery: Once the order is ready, the items are either delivered directly to the inmate or made available for pickup at a designated time.

It’s important to note that each correctional facility may have its specific guidelines and procedures for ordering from the commissary. Inmates should consult the facility’s rules and regulations or seek guidance from prison staff for detailed instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often can inmates order from the commissary?

The frequency of commissary orders may vary between correctional facilities. Some facilities allow weekly or bi-weekly orders, while others have a monthly ordering system. It’s essential for inmates to check with their facility’s guidelines to determine the frequency of commissary orders.

Are there limitations on the number of items an inmate can purchase?

Yes, there are usually limitations on the number of items an inmate can purchase. These limitations help ensure fairness and prevent hoarding. Each facility sets its own restrictions, which can vary depending on factors such as security levels and available resources.

Can inmates purchase electronics from the commissary?

While some facilities may allow inmates to purchase limited electronic devices such as radios or MP3 players, the availability of electronics can be restricted due to security concerns. It’s advisable for inmates to check their facility’s guidelines to know which electronics, if any, are allowed for purchase.

Can family and friends contribute to an inmate’s commissary account?

Yes, family and friends can usually contribute to an inmate’s commissary account. They can do so by sending money orders or using electronic funds transfer services provided by the correctional facility. It’s recommended to consult the facility’s guidelines or contact the prison administration for specific instructions on contributing funds.

What happens if an inmate doesn’t have enough money in their commissary account?

If an inmate doesn’t have enough money in their commissary account, they may not be able to make purchases until additional funds are deposited. It’s essential for inmates to manage their account balance carefully to ensure they can continue to access commissary items.

Can inmates return or exchange items purchased from the commissary?

In general, most correctional facilities do not allow returns or exchanges of items purchased from the commissary. This policy is in place to prevent misuse or abuse of the system. Inmates should review their facility’s policies regarding returns or exchanges for specific guidelines.


Inmate commissary is an integral part of the correctional system, providing incarcerated individuals with access to essential items and a sense of normalcy. Understanding how the inmate commissary system works, the available items, and the process of ordering can help inmates and their families navigate this aspect of prison life more effectively. By following the guidelines and rules set by the correctional facility, inmates can make the most of their commissary privileges and improve their overall well-being.

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