Reduction or Elimination of Costs and Fees Charged to Inmates in State Correctional Facilities


Incarcerated people and their families could save over $28 million per year if the Virginia prison system implements recommendations to cut costs and fees for making phone calls, using tablets, and purchasing food, clothes, and other supplies from prison commissaries.

 At the directive of bills from the Virginia Senate and House, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) organized a work group to make recommendations regarding the reduction or elimination of communication, commissary, and financial fees charged to inmates in state correctional facilities. There are limited jobs available to incarcerated people and the high costs of goods and services in prison are prohibitive with the amount of money incarcerated people can earn. As a result, they must often rely on their loved ones for additional financial support. Before the pandemic, a third of families with incarcerated loved ones went into debt trying to stay in touch. This report recommends policymakers reduce the financial burdens on incarcerated people and their loved ones, details the financial impact of their recommendations, and provides potential solutions to ensure no decrease or interruptions in the program and services provided by VADOC facilities. 

You can read the full report here

Key Findings:

  • In FY21, VADOC collected over $400,000 from commissions for products and services from inmate tablet usage.
  • VADOC generates an average of $3.7 million annually from its nine percent commission on commissary items.
  • VADOC funds multiple programs, including faith-based services, educational curriculum, and re-entry programs exclusively from funds by the incarcerated population and their families.
  • Due to VADOC’s overly restrictive definition of indigency, only five percent of their population qualifies for their indigent kits, which include toothpaste, deodorant, soap, a disposable razor, shampoo, and a comb.


  • Reduce costs associated with communication by eliminating state commissions from telecommunication companies and the cost of phone and video calls.
  • Reduce commissary costs in VADOC facilities by eliminating state commissions on commissary sales and providing high-quality and low costs items in the commissary.
  • Increase the per person per day budget allocation to provide higher quality food service in order to reduce reliance on commissary for basic needs.
  • Reduce the costs and fees associated with financial services by reducing deposit fees, debit release card fees, and increasing trust account disbursement options.
Virginia Department of Corrections