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Why Do Inmates Need Money in Prison: Things Prisoners Can Buy with Money


Prisons are a necessary part of society, serving as a place to confine individuals who have been convicted of a crime. While in prison, inmates are given basic necessities, such as food and clothing, but they often require additional items to make their time behind bars more comfortable. In this article, we will explore why inmates need money in prison and what they can buy with the money they receive.

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Why do inmates need money in prison

In prison, money plays a crucial role in providing prisoners with access to additional items and services. Here are some of the reasons why inmates need money in prison:

To buy necessities

Inmates need money to purchase essential items that are not provided by the prison, such as hygiene products, such as shampoo, toothpaste, and razors.

To purchase comfort items

Prison life can be monotonous and stressful, and inmates often use money to purchase items that provide comfort, such as snacks and food items, books, and magazines.

To pay for phone calls and emails

Inmates need to stay in touch with their family and friends, and they use money to pay for phone calls and emails.

To purchase privilege items

In some prisons, inmates can earn privileges through good behavior, and they can use their money to purchase items such as electronics and entertainment items.

What can prisoners buy with money

Inmates can use their money to purchase a variety of items, including:

Hygiene products

Inmates can purchase hygiene products such as shampoo, toothpaste, razors, and other personal care items.

Snacks and food items

Inmates can purchase snacks and food items, such as candy, chips, and instant noodles, to supplement their diets.

Clothing and footwear

Inmates can purchase clothing and footwear, such as socks and underwear, to replace items that have become worn or damaged.

Electronics and entertainment items

In some prisons, inmates can purchase electronics, such as radios and televisions, as well as entertainment items, such as books and magazines.

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Legal and educational materials

Inmates can use their money to purchase legal and educational materials, such as books and study guides, to help them prepare for their release.

The source of inmate’s money

Inmates receive money from several sources, including:

Family and friends

Family and friends can deposit money into an inmate’s account, which can then be used to purchase items from the prison store.

Jobs and work programs in prison

Inmates can earn money through work programs in prison, such as cooking, cleaning, or maintenance work.

Commissary accounts and prison store

Inmates can purchase items from the prison store using money from their commissary account.

Limitations on what prisoners can buy

While inmates can purchase a variety of items with their money, there are also limitations on what they can buy, including:

Contraband items

Prison staff strictly prohibits the purchase of contraband items, such as drugs or weapons.

Price restrictions

Prices for items in prison are often higher than in the outside world, and inmates may be limited by the amount of money they have available.

Availability of items

The availability of items in prison stores can be limited, and certain items may not be available at all times.

The role of prison staff in managing inmate purchases

Prison staff plays a crucial role in managing inmate purchases, including:

Monitoring and controlling access to items

Prison staff is responsible for monitoring and controlling access to items in the prison store to ensure security and safety.

Ensuring security and safety

Prison staff must ensure that inmates do not use purchased items to harm themselves or others.

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Balancing the needs of prisoners with the needs of the facility

Prison staff must balance the needs and desires of prisoners with the needs of the facility, such as maintaining security and safety.


Inmates need money in prison to purchase items and services that are not provided by the facility. The availability of items is limited by security and safety concerns, and prison staff plays a crucial role in managing inmate purchases. Understanding the role of money in prison can help families and friends support their loved ones during their time behind bars.


How do inmates receive money in prison?

Inmates receive money from family and friends, jobs and work programs in prison, and commissary accounts.

Can prisoners use credit cards in prison?

No, prisoners cannot use credit cards in prison. They must use money from their commissary account to purchase items.

Can prisoners buy cigarettes in prison?

Yes, prisoners can purchase cigarettes in prison, but the availability and price may vary depending on the facility.

Can prisoners buy drugs in prison?

No, prisoners are strictly prohibited from purchasing drugs or any other contraband items.

How much money can inmates have in prison?

The amount of money an inmate can have in prison varies depending on the facility and the state or federal regulations.

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