San Diego Jail Commissary Fund Profits Not Transferred to Inmate Welfare Fund: Audit

Excessive money from a San Diego County jail fund was not transferred to be used for inmate education and benefits, according to a county audit.

The audit found the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department accumulated excessive profit in the Jail Stores Commissary Fund. At one point, in December 2013, the fund accumulated a profit of $5.14 million, according to the audit.

Profits generated from the fund are supposed to be transferred on a quarterly basis to another fund called the Inmate Welfare Fund. It is used by the sheriff’s department to provide education and other benefits to inmates in San Diego County.

According to the audit, while the profits were not “transferred on a timely basis to the Inmate Welfare Fund to be used for the benefit of the inmates; OAAS (Office of Audits and Advisory Services) determined that these funds have not been used improperly.”

In an email, Jan Caldwell, the Public Affairs Officer for the sheriff’s department, said the profit accumulated was not distributed due to an administrative error.

She also said, “there have been no public donations to the fund and we are in the process of reclassifying the fund according to Audit and the Board of Supervisors.”

The money is currently awaiting transfer.

The commissary fund was established in 1965 to keep track of the jail's commissary activities. The commissary is like a store, allowing inmates to purchase items like snacks, hygiene items, over-the-counter medications and phone time.

Members of the public also donate to the commissary fund, purchasing gift packs and phone time for inmates.

According to the audit, in recent years, actual profit from the commissary fund has been greater than the amount of money the sheriff’s department budgeted. Since the department was only transferring the budgeted profit amount on a quarterly basis, the commissary fund accumulated an excessive fund balance over the years.

The Internal Service Funds audit was published in January by the County of San Diego’s Office of Audits and Advisory Services. Click here to read the complete audit.

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