Commissary Is Necessary – The Prison Supermarket

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Federal Prison Camp Commissary

The commissary is what inmates in prison use to supplement the food in the chow hall. You can buy a wide range of things in the commissary. They sell a lot of Little Debbie cakes, sodas, ice cream and candy but its not all just junk. You can purchase shoes, boots, long sleeve T shirts, T shirts, sweat pants etc. You also can purchase things like Tennis racquets, tennis balls, hand ball equipment, and sweat bands. This is where you also buy hygiene items such as tooth paste, tooth brush, soap, and razors. As you can see they have a variety of things available, when they have them in stock. That’s the catch, they don’t have a very good inventory system and tend to run out of things a lot. How do you shop in prison you might ask? Lucky for you, I’m your inside guy to lay it all out for you.

Everything in prison is based off of your inmate number, and you’re allowed to shop once a week. In order to find your shopping day, you have to take the 4th and 5th numbers of your inmate number and match it up to the calendar posted. That tells you what day you shop and it changes every quarter. The store is open Monday through Thursday and closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They will on occasion have an ice cream sale on Friday but there is usually a catch. The purpose of opening on Friday is to get rid of some slow moving inventory. So if you want to buy ice cream, you’ll also have to pick something else from there list.

How big is this store? Not very big, about the size of a living room. So how does everyone fit in the store? The answer is you don’t. You are given a checklist or commissary sheet with all items listed on it. You mark the wanted items and turn it into the commissary list picker upper guy. The lists are taken all-day from 9-11 and 1-3 Monday through Thursday.

You must go to a certain location and ask “who’s last” some inmate will let you know he is and then you will become the last man until another inmate walks up and asks the same question. Once the list taker shows up, you will then turn in your list behind the guy who told you he was last. Sound complicated yet? Once the lists are taken, the list taker takes them into the commissary room where 5 to 6 guys will divide them up and put the items you have selected into a cart.

Once your list is pulled the CO that runs the commissary will call your name over the intercom. You will then go in, place your thumbprint on a fingerprint reader and he will check you out by ringing up what you asked for and sliding it through a window. There are no shopping bags. You must bring your laundry bag to carry your goods back to the dorms. The cash register is just like one you would see at Wal-Mart. You have $360 a month you can spend in the commissary. In order to spend that much you would have to have people put money on your account. Prison jobs pay on average $20 a month so make sure you have someone on the outside that can put money on your books.

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