Group Created with Sketch.

Study finds incarcerated people often spend more than they earn at prison commissaries.

In May, the Prison Policy Initiative released a study on the economics of prison commissaries in three states: Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington.Stephen Raher, The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries (Northampton, MA: Prison Policy Initiative, 2018). The report found that incarcerated people in Illinois and Massachusetts spent more than a thousand dollars annually, on average, at prison commissaries; and, in Washington State, around $500.Stephen Raher, The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries (Northampton, MA: Prison Policy Initiative, 2018). Average annual earnings in the three states for incarcerated people range from $180 to $660.Stephen Raher, The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries (Northampton, MA: Prison Policy Initiative, 2018). Seventy-five percent of this spending went to basic needs like food, hygiene, and over-the-counter medicine, which the researchers suggested indicates “a widespread need to supplement the food provided by the prisons.”Prison Policy Initiative, “New Report, The Company Store, Questions Fairness and Purpose of Prison Commissaries,” press release (Northampton, MA: Prison Policy Initiative, May 24, 2018).