Funding an Inmate’s Commissary Account

Funding the commissary account is important

Funding the commissary account is important

Funding the inmate’s commissary account will be one of your first and continuous activities.  Jails are no frills detainment areas.  Time will seem like an eternity because there is very little to do in jail.   Prisons on the other hand, while not the Ritz, have more opportunity for both physical and mental activity.  Because jail is viewed as a “short term” (could be months) detention area, very little activity is provided for the inmate.

Why fund the commissary account?

While incarcerated it is important to keep money in the inmate’s commissary account if possible.  This money is used to buy extra food such as fresh fruit, candy or snacks.   It is also used to buy extra personal hygiene items like soap, shampoo or basic things such as pens and paper to write to you!  If you assume the inmate has absolutely nothing except the clothes on their back then you’re probably very close to understanding their plight while in jail.

Who’s responsible?

It is the responsibility of the inmate to tell you how much money remains on the account since you have no way to check the balance.  It is not your fault if they fail to tell you or give enough time to fund the account before it reaches zero.  It is unreasonable to expect you to drop everything and deposit funds, but given the stress of being in jail you can expect this reaction.  While inside with little to do, time stands still and the incarcerated soon forgets what occupies a typical day on the outside.   Show compassion and accept any verbal abuse while you make the best effort to get money on the account at your earliest convenience.  This situation is hard on everyone.

Commissary items are small in size or quantity and therefore outrageously expensive, so don’t be surprised at the usage rate. The exact funding amount is up to you and you need not feel guilty about putting your loved one on a strict budget.  The family on the outside is dealing with expenses too so while it’s difficult, don’t hesitate to state clearly what you can and cannot do.  Funding the commissary account is an act of charity. It is not a requirement and it should not be funded to the detriment of the family on the outside. Remember, it is not your fault they are in this situation.

How long until commissary funds arrive?

The time for deposited funds to reach the inmate’s commissary account varies by facility.   It may take a day and it may take a week.    Since a stay in county jail is always expected to be short, you may want to deposit money on demand.  Any money on account when they get out is refunded to the inmate, not the person making the deposit so keep this in mind.    For someone in a state or federal facility for years, a budget should be worked out.  Periodic deposits of a fixed amount every week, month, pay check, month or whatever works makes it easier on everyone.  There is a fee for every deposit, so depositing larger amounts less frequently may be less costly than smaller more frequent deposits.

Getting started

The exact funding method depends on the facility and who is running it.  Check with the facility for more specific details.  Regardless of how you fund the account, always make sure to get a deposit receipt.  Mistakes do happen.  Below are links or phone numbers for funding the inmate’s commissary account at various facilities.

County Commissary Accounts

Cuyahoga County

Lorain County

Media County. Call (330) 764-3628 and follow the instructions.

Lake County. Call (440) 350-5601.

Geauga County. Call (440) 279-2009.

State of Ohio Prison Commissary Accounts

A person must be preapproved before they can deposit money into a State commissary account.  Ohio has several funding methods including: phone, kiosks, online and mail.

Start Here

Federal Prison, Penitentiary, Camps and Residential Reentry

Federal Commissary Info   (scroll down or click the “send money” icon)

For Contracted Federal Prisons (those run for profit by 3rd parties), contact the facility directly.  If you aren’t sure, start with the link above.

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Updated: March 18, 2019 — 1:34 pm