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The Commissary

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

The Commissary By: Unknown

On March 22, 2023, the inmate population of FMC-Fort Worth was notified by way of electronic bulletin published on the TRULINCS inmate Bulletin Board that, effective April 3, 2023, the monthly commissary spending limit will no longer be $360.00, rather, it will be $250.00.

This constitutes a decrease of nearly 30 percent of the total amount of groceries I am allowed to purchase from Commissary each month.

This restrictive act was initiated by order of the Warden of FMC-Fort Worth. This commissary interference by the Warden is nonsensical given the fact that the national inflation during the last year has caused the commissary’s prices to increase considerably for inmates during the past months, justifying an increase I the spending limit, rather than a punitive decrease.

But instead of leaving the $360 spending limit in place under such adverse economic circumstances, the Warden added insult to injury by decreasing the limit by nearly 30 percent when inmates need the $360 limit more than ever in order to purchase what they need, or what they are accustomed to purchasing because of the inflationary prices.

The warden has made known that the reason for this decrease in the commissary spending limit is to punish the whole inmate population because a small proportion of inmates are not making their beds properly and otherwise not good housekeepers.

This unnecessary manipulation of the commissary limit has nothing to do with inmate security or a significant issue regarding proper operation of the Institution.

On the contrary, based on this warden’s well-known past acts and practices concerning commissary restrictions and limitations used by him as improper punishment at the institution, this is simply another way for the warden to punish the whole of the inmate population for problems or issues created by a relatively small group of inmates and/or created by ineffective management by various Institution staff.

In any case, the action of the warden in this matter constitutes punishment of the entire inmate population without procedural due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that commissary is a privilege, not a right (which is not actually the case at FMC-Forth Worth, as discussed below), each and every inmate of the entire inmate population of FMC-Fort Worth is undeniably being punished by having such privilege (an official BOP $360 national spending limit) revoked without notice of the reason for such punishment and the opportunity for a formal hearing after reasonable notice in advance of such hearing in order to defend any such alleged improper conduct resulting in such punishment.

Therefore, the procedural due process rights of each inmate who is incarcerated at FMC-Forth Worth are being violated by the revocation of the $360 national spending limit. Regarding the BOP national commissary spending limit, BOP Program Statement No. 4500.12 (section 3.2) promulgates BOP policy for a national commissary monthly spending limit in the amount of $360.

And even though such section of PS 4500.3.2 further provides that each warden has the discretion to set a monthly spending limit, not to exceed the national limit, the warden is not able to abuse that discretion or capriciously undercut the national limit recommended by the BOP as a reasonable and necessary limit.

The $360 monthly commissary spending limit at FMC-Fort Worth was established and consistently maintained to be $360 (the national limit) by previous wardens for many years before the current warden came into power here, and it is an abuse of discretion for this warden to whimsically decrease the monthly commissary spending limit which has been in place at FMC-Forth Worth as a matter of such precedent.

What is more, since the BOP Central Office established the national commissary limit in the amount of $360 over 12 years ago, commissary prices overall, have increased by approximately 40-50 percent.

Therefore, it is actually time to increase the national limit by an equitably proportionate amount in order to account for rising prices over time, which are the result of national economic growth. In any case, it is certainly not the time for this warden to punitively decrease the spending limit at FMC-Fort Worth by nearly 30 percent under such economic circumstances.

This warden’s conduct in this matter thus constitutes a patent abuse of discretion considering the fact that a likely majority, if not substantial numbers, of inmates at the institution have developed nutritional reliance and critical habits of food purchasing/consumption, which have been the result of a long-term commissary spending limit equivalent to the national limit promulgated and recommended by the BOP Central Office and BOP national administrators.

This warden’s action is, therefore, detrimental to the health and welfare of the inmate population. The impropriety of the warden’s misconduct in this matter is all the more reprehensible when one considers the commonly observed and well-known act that the quality and quantity of the food served in the institution’s dining hall has substantially diminished since this warden took office here.

This fact makes the need to maintain the national spending limit at the FMC-Fort Worth Commissary a critical matter concerning the health and welfare of inmates. Also, the quality and quantity of the chow hall food under this warden’s control , in conjunction with the precedent of the national spending limit used here for many years arguable makes the national commissary spending limit currently in place at FMC-Forth Worth a liberty interest—in the context of the Fifth Amendment—rather than a sample inmate privilege, given the well-known special needs of this institution’s inmates to supplement their diets through commissary purchases made under the national spending limit, rather than suffer unnecessary weight loss, lack of energy, improper nutrition, illness, and other health problems due to the deficiency of meals provided by the chow hall.

Just one example of the Institution’s food service failures in this regard concerns the daily quantity of protein provided for inmate consumption.

The chow hall only provides about 40 to 50 grams of protein per day per inmate, depending on the particular meals served for lunch and dinner.

This is enough for a small child or immobilized person; not a healthy adult male, especially one who exercises or is otherwise active. The national medical standard calls for at least 100 to 200 grams of protein per day for the adult male, depending on age, body weight, and activity level. (The only protein served for breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the day, comes from the small milks, which contain only a total of 16 grams of protein, which is only available to those who are not lactose intolerant, who like milk, and who are willing to awaken at 5:30am each morning in order to go to the chow hall for the m ilk and pastry, carbohydrate-filled food items served for the breakfast meal.)

Then there are the small chicken patties (is it really chicken?), the small burgers (it is really beef?), the pizza with a razor thin layer of cheese only, the spaghetti with the five grams of protein in the meat sauce, and the deficient ten grams of protein in each meal involving chicken and rice (where’s the chicken?) and a couple of tablespoons of beans. And this warden has made it his legacy to show that a hungry or famished inmate under his control will never get seconds: he puts more energy into having the chow line policed than a reasonable man would believe. Therefore, not only is the proposed commissary spending limit… be continued

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