November 23, 2010
By: Christopher Reinhart, Chief Attorney
You asked a number of questions about how the prison commissary operates, how inmates purchase items, and how much the Department of Correction (DOC) collects in sales and profits.
We answer your questions separately below.
Does DOC operate the commissary or is it outsourced? How is it organized? Are there stores?
DOC operates the commissary using three district warehouses. Each warehouse serves several DOC facilities. Facilities do not have individual stores. Commissary staff consists of 47 DOC custody positions and about 120 inmate workers.
How do inmates place orders? Is there a product or price list?
DOC collects order forms (bubble sheets for placing orders) from inmates on a weekly basis. The warehouses process the forms. Orders are scanned into the commissary system, which debits the inmate's account and creates a picking list. Orders are bagged and trucked to each facility for distribution to inmates.
DOC provided us with the current order forms, including a bubble sheet and specific forms for items such as electronics. Copies are attached.
Do inmates have a spending limit?
DOC states that an inmate's regular weekly spending limit is $75, but DOC may further limit commissary privileges. DOC also limits the quantity of certain items, such as clothing or electronics.
What are current commissary sales?
According to DOC, year-to-date sales covering July through September 2010 are $3,522,522.
How much profit does DOC make? Are labor costs included in the calculation?
DOC provided the following information for FY 10:
● Sales $14,370,821
● Gross Profit $3,208,052
● Net Profit $149,842 (1% profit)
DOC reported a net loss of .7% in FY 09 or $104,445.
The commissary operates within the Correction Industries Fund and sales revenue covers direct staff salaries, inmate wages, equipment, and operating expenses.
What is the Jail Management System (JMS), what software does it use, and does a vendor need to interface with the JMS?
DOC understands JMS as referring to a system that tracks inmate data, sentences, location, and other information. DOC developed their inmate data system internally. Commissary and inmate trust operations use proprietary software from Syscon Justice Systems which interfaces with the inmate data system for inmate status and location information.
DOC states that they recently sought proposals for a comprehensive JMS that would incorporate the commissary and inmate banking functions. DOC chose a vendor but is awaiting funding.