Kentucky prisons are required by law to provide 2,400 calories per day to inmates. There is no law requiring prisons to provide additional police services.
Daviess County Jailer Art Maglinger said the jail has a commissioner because state law allows a portion of the commissioner’s revenue to be used for security upgrades, tools for teams work and for certain recreational purposes, such as paying the prison’s cable TV bill. Having a commissioner also helps control the behavior of inmates, to some extent.
Kellwell Commissary Services sets the prices, Maglinger said.
“I have an interest in keeping prices low,” Maglinger said in an interview last week. “It’s important to me that it’s reasonable.
“I know that the stewardship provider and the technology provider are there to make a profit. The prison also has a contract with a company that provides telephone, email and video visitation services. We benefit (from the sales of the police station), but the money must be spent for the benefit of the detainees.
The Messenger-Inquirer recently received a letter from a person who had spent time in prison, who stated that inmates were being forced to supplement their diets with items from the commissary because inmates were not getting enough food per through catering services.
Maglinger said the 2,400 calorie daily requirement is enforced by prison inspections, which take place twice a year. The prison also has a dietitian among the medical staff, and the catering manager monitors prison workers to ensure they serve adequate portions, Maglinger said.
“They get meals whether or not they order a commissioner,” Maglinger said. Kellwell Food Management provides catering services to the prison. Asked about related companies providing both food service and a commissary, Maglinger said Kellwell’s commissary prices were better than some competing companies.
“They had a great range of new items,” he said, “and the sale prices are generally cheaper across the board.”
The Commissary sells food, clothing, common medicines like cough drops, multivitamins and antibiotic ointments, hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, deodorant and snacks. There are over 300 items on the curator’s list and prices vary.
For example, a 20 ounce soft drink costs $2.29, a 7.5 ounce serving of beef stew costs $3.29, a bowl of Frosted Flakes costs $1, a large boxer brief costs $3.25, a Butterfinger candy bar costs $2.29, a two-pack of extra strength painkillers costs 40 cents and a bar of Irish Spring soap costs $1.39. A cheese or pepperoni pizza is $15. The prices of some items are higher, depending on the brand.
A percentage of the Commissary’s sales goes to the prison canteen account. The prison gets 33% of food and beverage sales, 12.5% of non-food item sales, and 15% of “hot cart” sales, which are items that are microwaved and brought to pods on a carriage.
State law states that funds from the canteen account can be used “to improve safety and security in the prison,” i.e. surveillance cameras. Funds can also be used “for the benefit of and to improve the welfare of prisoners”.
“They may not like us using it for surveillance, but it keeps them safe,” Maglinger said.
The prison used the fund to purchase items for inmate work teams, gardening equipment for the inmate garden, board games for inmates, and food for inmate workers. The fund also pays the prison’s cable bill. Inmate cells are equipped with a television.
“I think those are good things,” Maglinger said. “When I became a jailer, I wouldn’t have thought inmates should have access to television.”
But if inmates have nothing to do, whether it’s attending classes, working on a shift, making mattresses or even watching television, they’ll be in trouble, Maglinger said.
“People for a long period of time will create their own entertainment,” he said.
Inmates receive certain items upon reservation, such as a uniform and hygiene items. When asked if inmates should use the commissary when they run out of hygiene items, Maglinger said deputy jailers keep a stock of these items and distribute them on demand, after determining that the inmate really needed the item.
Detainees deemed indigent – who have not made a purchase at the police station for seven days and have less than $1 in their accounts – can receive a weekly “indigent kit” with different hygiene items. The cost of the kits, which ranges from $2.25 to $3, is charged to the inmate’s account.
Inmates who have unpaid jail fees can see half of the deposits from the commissioner’s account taken by the jail. Maglinger said the prison collects about $500,000 in detention fees each year.
The commissary is a service for inmates, Maglinger said.
“I see this as a positive thing, for the inmates and the families,” he said. “but it’s not something they’re entitled to.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse