VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: Canteen Cartel

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By D. Razor Babb

Senate Bill 474 by state Senator Josh Becker (D – Peninsula area) seeks to end exorbitant price gouging by commissaries throughout California’s lockups. Recently, when approached by a canteen worker proclaiming, “We did $11,000 in sales in a single day!” the figure seemed bizarre. When you factor in that there are 5 yards, 5 canteens at Mule Creek, the amounts begin to accumulate, as do the questions.

A little investigating reveals that expenditure and statement of operations reports are posted in the law library every quarter, and fiscal year’s 2022/2023 report provides recent numbers. Turns out the $11,000 number pro-rates to total sales of $3,066,993.48 for all yards combined. At 65% markup, that leaves a gross profit of $1,197,658.08. Minus salaries & wages, benefits, supplies, and inmate pay, that leaves $571,849.40. I’ll save you the other sundry expense listings and “miscellaneous revenue and allocated funds.” But I will share “inmate benefits expenses.” It comes to $26,052.41.

So out of the 65% markup on the over $3 million we’re spending per year at this one institution, we’re seeing $26K in residual payback.

Who says prisoners aren’t paying for their crimes?

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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