The first prison supermarket in north China is reporting a healthy turnover since it opened on April 30.
The market was opened by a group called Tiankelong in a district of Tianjin, 200 kilometers from Beijing, but all the prisoners in this jail are from Beijing. Another six jail supermarkets are scheduled to be set up by the group.
The regular customers mostly are prisoners, visiting relatives and jail police.
Prisoners serve as shop assistants in red vests and jail police as cashiers in the 100-square-meter market.
Li Lei, a prisoner, said, "I had never seen a supermarket when I was put into prison 12 years ago and this is the first time I have shopped in a supermarket. I thought the shopping baskets were for sale before my mother explained it to me."
The practice has been praised as humane. Wang Jin, a prisoner, said, "Before the market opened here, we had to book the goods we needed and the jail guards would shop for us each month. Now it's possible for us to choose from a variety of goods of various brands and at different prices."
Visiting relatives are also happy. The mother of criminal Cheng Jiajun was choosing shoes for her son. She said the supermarket could help visiting relatives, who used to carry heavy parcels to visit prisoners.
Lu Guoxing, a senior official in the prison, said, prisoners enjoyed different standards of consumption according to their performances and basic situations, ranging from 60 yuan (US$ 7.22) to 200 yuan (US$ 24.09) each month.
According to Lu, jail supermarkets are already established in south China, and this is the first of its kind in north China.
(People's Daily May 13, 2002)