Canteen Day

Posted: April 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Later on in the day after my group’s arrival on Unit 21 we had the opportunity to go on Rec.   Having not had much of an opportunity to do anything physical since early December I was actually pretty tired.  But one thing they had in common at Dodge Correctional Institution, the reception center for the Wisconsin Prison system, with the place I came from, Waukesha County Jail (WCJ), was the ability to order canteen. Canteen allows inmates to make choices of various items to consume or use during their stay.  They limit your total order amount to $20 and limit the quantities of the items you can order.  You can get a wide assortment of items: minor over the counter medications, deodorants (very important here, trust me!), greeting cards, toiletries, shaving products, soda, soap, Little Debbie’s (my weakness), cookies, nuts, coffee, tea or cocoa, candy bags, dental products, hair care products (save a lot here – I shave my head), skin care products, shower shoes (very important!), drink mixes (like Tang), chips (my other weakness), candy bars and gum and groceries.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the prices here were far cheaper than they were at WCJ.  For instance, one grocery item, Ramen Noodles, at WCJ cost $1.10, here they cost $ .22.  Many inmates here order these like crazy but I don’t get the attraction.  The ‘hot water’ here is only as hot as you can get it out of your sink.  I barely can tolerate a little cup of lukewarm coffee this way, much less soup.  I’m told when we get to our next assigned institution we will have access to hot water via pot or microwave.  I’ll convert to Raman Noodles then too, because like you out there, I too want to stretch my shopping dollar as far as I possibly can!  No coupons or sale items here though.  Who am I kidding, I never used those anyway!

So I fill out the large yellow sheet, adding in my head so as not to exceed $20.  Being my first order, I was heavy on razors and other hygiene items.  They don’t provide these items in reception status.  I put it in the door and the guard came and got it.  The conversation at the meals the next day was of course, all about what each of us would get, another person’s opinion of what you should have gotten and so forth.  But, from the level of anticipation shown you would have thought it was Christmas Eve!  There were those too who were quiet.  They didn’t have money on their books for such things.  Most just didn’t have anyone who would do so.  The feeling here toward those isn’t sympathy but as if they were a lower class of inmate.  I was silent.  Had it not been for my sponsors, I too would have been in that boat.

Finally, in groups of 5 or 6, we were called to the desk to pick up our order bag.  We were to inspect it to make sure all was there and if so, bring the order slip to the guard to have you both sign.  Then if you ordered envelopes, you handed them over to have your inmate number stamped.  One inmate was missing coffee (a highly valued commodity here) but because he had ripped the bag open, the guard wouldn’t help the situation.   He carried on for awhile but then stopped.  There’s no store manager to appeal to here.

I got my chips, Little Debbie’s (Swiss Rolls), coffee and hygiene stuff and went back to my cell.  I made a cup of lukewarm coffee, opened a Swiss Roll, and read my Bible.  And for that moment, I was content.

  1. Mary says:

    I know it was what was available..and also comforting…but, as is my profession and my passion for health…your white blood cell count is low..your immune system is severely compromised..and you are putting your body at risk..the amount of rancid oils in snack food..actually cause cancer..and the coffee..acid environment..I KNOW this is what wwas available..but you didnt have a choice. I would love the job of suggesting other items as coices..that would actually improve the mood and well being of the prisoner and make a calmer population. God! I sound naive???..But seriously….so much could be done here……

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