Commissary in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis

One of the few highlights in the life of an inmate in the Federal Bureau of Prisons is the once-per-week privilege of going to commissary, which is the prison equivalent of the local supermarket.  Since packages from family and friends are not allowed in the BOP, the commissary is an inmate’s only opportunity to get the amenities that can make serving their time more bearable.

Who Can Shop at the Commissary?

Commissary is a privilege granted to inmates at all general population institutions in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  In general, all inmates that have money in their trust fund account (and who have nor already spent more than $320.00 that month) will be able to shop at commissary.

There are three exceptions to this rule:

  • Inmates that are serving a period on commissary restriction due to a disciplinary infraction;

  • Inmates that have refused to participate in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program; and

  • Inmates that are housed outside general population (for example, the Special Housing Unit).

Inmates that fall into these categories are limited to purchasing from a very restricted list, spending a maximum of $25.00 per month, not the regular $320.00 per month.

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