What can you buy while incarcerated – and who decides?

Excerpts from an article by Chaplain Bernie Morris:

Have you ever wondered where you would get the items you needed if you found yourself unable to go out to a variety of stores?

For offenders in the Virginia Department of Corrections (VaDoc) this is the issue they face.  Who decides what they can buy?  Where do they get electronics; certain articles of approved clothing (work books; tennis shoes; sweatpant/shirt) and approved pre-packaged foods (chips, crackers), etc.).

Since there are numerous items for offenders to purchase through the commissary either what is stocked locally or via special order through the commissary vendor; how do these items get on the “approved” list?  This is the role of the Commissary Review Committee which meets bi-monthly at the VaDoc Headquarters building in Richmond.

The Commissary Review Committee is comprised of headquarters staff (a total of 6); Medical Staff (2); a Warden; an Institutional Recreation Department staff member and Mrs. Boatman from Virginia Cure.

At the committee’s bi-monthly meeting, requests from facilities for new items, consideration of an item to replace an existing item or a request to remove a current item are taken up.  The state manager for the contracted commissary vendor provides the committee with the actual item(s) requested (if available or obtainable from a vendor) so that the committee members can see what is being requested, hold it, sniff it and make a decision based on what is present, not something being spoken of in the abstract.  The committee can approve or disapprove an item(s) and also list any restrictions in accordance with VaDoc policy.

Once the decisions have been made, the meeting docket is finalized and submitted for review (at which time changes can be made by senior DOC staff) and then final approval.  The finalized docket is sent out to the facilities so that they will know about the decisions from the Commissary Review Committee.

Editor’s note: A portion of the commissary proceeds go to the “Inmate Commissary Fund” which is to be used to enhance inmate life. This commissary fund does provide significant support to GraceInside.



GraceInside November 15, 2017