California prison canteens currently sell essential items—such as snacks and medication—at a markup of between 65 and 200 percent.
With just one signature, California Governor Gavin Newsom can significantly curtail the state’s long-standing practice of price-gouging imprisoned people for vital items like toothbrushes or deodorant.
Last week, the Basic Affordable Supplies for Incarcerated Californians Act, or the BASIC Act, overwhelmingly passed the state Senate and Assembly. The bill is now with the governor, who has until October 14 to sign it.
If signed into law, the BASIC Act would prohibit commissaries from charging more than a 35 percent markup on what they paid to the vendor that supplied the items. The cap would remain in place from January 1, 2024 until January 1, 2028. At that time, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary would set commissary prices.
“We have to end the egregious and cruel markups on food and hygiene items that are sold in the prisons,” California state Senator Josh Becker, who introduced the bill, told The Appeal.
California prison commissaries typically sell items—including snacks and medication—at a markup of between 65 and 200 percent, according to Becker’s office.
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a co-sponsor of the BASIC Act, sent out an action alert Friday urging California residents to contact Newsom and ask him to sign the bill.