Samantha Rose, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, emailed the below statement in response to a series of questions prior to the publication of Reckon’s Commissary Slips app:
The ADOC requires inmates who physically can work to contribute to the cost of their incarceration so that the financial burden does not rest entirely upon taxpayers’ shoulders, which is consistent with Alabama state law. Inmates are given job assignments within ADOC facilities and are not paid for their job assignments. Those job assignments are consistent with the abilities and needs of the inmate, the needs of the facility, and the inmate’s custody level.
Be advised that inmates designated as minimum custody may be placed in a community based facility / community work center, and therefore may be eligible for placement in our Work Release / Work Center programs. Inmates who participate in our Work Release / Work Center programs are paid.
Perception is not always reflective of reality, and personal opinions are not always factual. All inmates are provided adequate access to food and hygiene items.
Commissaries within correctional environments are stores that sell non-state-provided goods approved for a prison setting, such as snacks and candy, which are not “essential to survival,” as you indicated. To be clear – inmates are not constitutionally entitled to free or below-market-value snacks or other non-essential items while incarcerated for the crime(s) for which they were convicted.
The revenue generated by commissaries in any correctional system is reflective of demand for non-essential items. The pricing structure for non-essential items available for purchase in ADOC commissaries is in-line with industry standards.
There are some inmate advocates who argue that inmates should be provided low-cost or free non-essential items of their choosing while they are incarcerated. Providing non-essential items below their market value to inmates adds to the cost of their incarceration, thus increasing the burden on taxpayers. Not only is this impractical and unrealistic, such a move would not eliminate efforts to illicitly obtain things of value within a correctional system.
Shadow economies and illicit networks exist in most, if not all, prison environments, serving as a means through which inmates can exchange things of value – including snacks, candy, or other non-essential items available for purchase in commissaries. While such exchanges may drive misbehavior and criminal activity, misbehavior and criminal activity are not exclusively driven by the exchange of commissary items.
Those who are willing to do harm to obtain things of value within a correctional environment unfortunately may go to great lengths to do so – regardless of what the item is, where it came from, or what it initially cost.