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A prison commissary or canteen is a store within a correctional facility, from which inmates may purchase products such as hygiene items, snacks, writing instruments, etc. Typically inmates are not allowed to possess cash; instead, they make purchases through an account with funds from money contributed by friends, family members, etc., or earned as wages. Typically, prisons set a maximum limit of funds that can be spent by each inmate on commissary; in the U.S. federal system, it is $290 per month.[when?]
Items used as currency
It is generally prohibited for inmates to trade items purchased on commissary. However, certain items tend to be used as currency. Cigarettes were a classic medium of exchange, but in the wake of prison tobacco bans, postage stamps have become a more common currency item, along with any inexpensive, popular item that has a round number price such as 25 or 50 cents. Ramen is also increasingly popular due to its rarity in prisons and food or trading value.
Some prison commissaries are staffed by government employees and inmates, while others have been completely privatized. Significant price markups are common in prison commissaries, although some prison systems set maximum markups; for instance, the Delaware Department of Correction has a 20% maximum markup. $100 million in purchases were made from Texas' prison system alone in 2009. Prison commissary is a privilege that is often taken away for infractions.
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