Pages from Walkenhorst's 2022-23 Winter Catalog
Pages from Walkenhorst's 2022-23 Winter Catalog

This article was first published by Endeavor, a newspaper at Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami. Aside from the headline, it appears as it was published and has not been edited by PJP.

Residents of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) were once able to order quarterly food and property packages through Access Securepak and Union Supply Direct. Their catalogs offered name brand food items, clothing, sneakers, hygiene, radios, earbuds and many other products not available in the canteen or on the canteen’s quarterly order form. Family and friends were able to spend up to $100 per resident from both companies each ordering period.

While well received by the residents, the program was discontinued in 2017. “I looked forward to the variety and quality of products that weren’t available in the canteen. I don’t understand why the program ended,” resident Jon Nelson said.

The FDC posted a message on their website announcing the upcoming return of the program. It said the solicitation process began in September 2019 but was delayed by the pandemic. “The Department anticipates awarding the solicitation and establishing a new contract by the fall of 2021.” This deadline has elapsed and no new statewide program has been made available. No further announcements or updates have been posted to FDC’s website. The original posting did suggest that “[residents] can continue to purchase property items through the quarterly order program currently offered by the service provider, Trinity Services Group.”

The Access website posts no information on ordering for FDC residents. However, Union’s site had announced the “Florida Summer Program,” with an order period from April 11 through May 11, 2022, for Gadsden Correctional Institution only. No other facilities were listed as authorized to receive orders.

At Florida’s privately operated facilities, residents can purchase a larger selection of upgraded food and property items such as beard trimmers, large bowls with lids, popcorn, and ice cream. These same types of items are not sold in Department-run institutions.

Florida operates institutions that are classified as “incentivized.” To be considered for placement, residents must have an exemplary disciplinary record and be free of any major violations that would disrupt the security of the facility. Residents of an incentivized institution should be considered for participation in some version of a food and property program, similar to what was previously offered with Access and Union.

At past town hall meetings, the quality and selection of shoes currently offered on the quarterly order form had been discussed. Administration announced they were receptive to exploring the possibility of coming up with a new and better selection. On previous quarterly order forms, a resident had options to choose from — New Balance, Nike and Reebok. Currently, residents are limited to one shoe manufacturer: Shoe Corp, a company specializing in institutional footwear. An established company whose clientele is primarily the incarcerated, such as Walkenhorst’s, should be considered. They offer 65 different pairs of men’s sneakers and seven different beard trimmers.

Walkenhorst’s, a family-owned and operated catalog supply company, has been catering to the incarcerated for over 25 years. Their 323-page 2022 “Summer National East Catalog” offers thousands of items to jails and correctional facilities in nearly 30 states. Six Florida facilities and their sales tax are listed: Citrus County Detention Facility, Florida Civil Commitment Center, Florida State Prison, Lake Correctional Institution, South Bay Correctional Facility and Union Correctional Institution.

The FDC has been in talks for over two years to find a provider of services comparable to Access, Union, Walkenhorst’s or the like. It’s well past the fall of 2021 and time to offer these services again. Those at an incentivized institution have earned the privilege to be offered an upgraded selection of food and property items, similar to what was already available in the past. Or, at the very least, offer what was advertised.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Gervasio "Julio" Torres Jr.

Gervasio "Julio" Torres Jr. is a member of Exchange for Change’s Leadership Council, creator and co-facilitator for the “Just Write” writing class for colleagues, an active member of the Draft Picks Gavel Club, and a copy editor/senior writer for a monthly newsletter. He is incarcerated in Florida.