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What is the Inmate Store, and how does my loved one use it?

When someone is housed in a jail run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, they are fed three meals a day. Those meals come with desserts and juice or milk to drink. But inmates also have the ability purchase food and other items from the inmate store on a weekly basis. They also have access to vending machines for sodas and candies inside their dorms.

But how does the inmate store work, and who runs it? Isn't the Sheriff's Department making a profit by selling things to inmates that can't leave when they want to? And isn't there a problem with that?

Well, like most things in law enforcement, our agency is told specifically by California law how to run an inmate store. California Penal Code 4025 tells us the money made by the store is to be spent on the inmates, and not however we want to spend it. "The money deposited in the Inmate Welfare Fund shall be expended by the Sheriff primarily for the benefit, education, and welfare of the inmates."

With that said, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has guidelines set up to make sure we comply with the law. While I don't want to bore you with the whole policy, it does say that " Inmate Welfare Fund monies and supplies shall not be used to offset necessary and required expenses of confinement such as meals or housing."

The money made by running a store goes directly to educational and recreational programs for inmates. We buy basketballs and volleyballs. We buy books and computers for inmate libraries. Many inmates think of it as a win-win situation. They are able to buy some of the creature comforts and foods they are accustomed to when not in a jail environment, and the profit the county makes off the store is spent on the inmate's well-being.

But we don't run the inmate store by ourselves. In order to provide a wide variety of products and services to the inmates in our care, we contract the inmate store with Keefe Group.

Taken directly from their website, I'll let them tell you a little more about themselves.

"In 1975, Keefe Supply Company entered the correctional market by supplying single serve coffee packets to a Florida prison.

Soon to follow, Keefe began packaging instant coffee and Tang in sealed paper pouches, eliminating the presence and hassles associated with glass jars.

Since then, Keefe has served the correctional market exclusively and has been the industry leader and nation's largest provider in commissary products and services.

Keefe offers the finest quality of products, uniquely packaged for consumption by inmates, and unrivalled for depth, variety and innovation.

We currently offer over 2,500 products, ranging from snack food items to personal care products to clothing and electronics. Keefe is the leading supplier of both name brand products as well as a manufacturer of private label goods.

Keefe maintains its own manufacturing facility and packages a variety of products such as Nescafe coffee, Tang Instant Breakfast Drink, private label brands such as E.Z. Digby, Snack Legends, Cactus Annie, Keefe Kitchens, and many more. Because of our commitment to quality and service, you can be sure that every Keefe product in your commissary is held to the highest standard."

Inmates in our care are able to purchase these items by filling out weekly order sheets, or by using the vending machines in their housing areas.

Contact Information: PDC North Public Information Officer - 661-295-8840,

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