End high prices for food and basics at prison commissaries

End high prices for food and basics at prison commissaries

101 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
Petition to
Philadelphia Dept of Corrections

Why this petition matters

Prison Commissary Pricing Hurts Philadelphia Families

The Issue

Philadelphia County prisons are mandated to provide all incarcerated individuals with essential clothing, food, and hygiene products. In practice however, basic clothing needs such as shoes and cold weather items are insufficient, nutritional standards leave those in prison hungry and undernourished, and basic health and hygiene products such as toothpaste, soap, bandages, and tampons are routinely not supplied.

The Department of Corrections’ shortfall in providing for inmate’s basic needs - in accordance with their own policies - is evidenced by prison commissaries. Those in prison may obtain the aforementioned lacking items, including a wide variety of packaged food items through prison commissary.  In a recent survey, items sold through commissary cost approximately 75% more on average than retail prices for identical items. Further, despite commissary being the only way to obtain many essentials, the Department of Corrections retains the right to restrict or fully block an individual’s access for almost any reason.


The Department of Corrections’ failure to adequately provide for incarcerated people’s most basic needs creates a group forced to patronize a system with exorbitant pricing and stated profit motives. This is especially problematic as the majority of those in Philadelphia prisons are poor, with 800 locked up simply because they cannot afford bail. This results in:

  • Insufficient nutrition, causing people to leave prison in worse health than when they arrived.
  • Families having forego basic needs to provide commissary funding for loved ones in prison.
  • Increased strain on family relationships, and exacerbated poverty.
  • Informal economies and poverty exploitation inside the prisons.


We the people of Philadelphia demand that the County Department of Corrections immediately:

  • Provide all essential items to all persons incarcerated in the county, without exception, including feminine hygiene products without limit.
  • Make information regarding provision of essential items publicly available.
  • Make publicly available, an audit of commissary income, profits, profit allocations, and reasoning for all pricing decisions.
  • Immediately convene a panel of non-Department of Corrections professionals to review commissary policy with a goal of reducing prices to prevailing market rates or less, with no profit generation.
  • Issue a public commitment to full transparency of commissary policy and practice going forward.
101 have signed. Let’s get to 200!