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How do inmates buy things in jail or prison? Being incarcerated doesn't mean that you stop being a consumer, and almost every penal institution has a commissary system to allow inmates to buy goods.

Whether you're in jail or prison -- and yes there is a difference -- an inmate with some outside funding can purchase food, clothing, and even hobby supplies.

But getting credit to buy things isn't always so easy.

With Christmas and New Year's fast approaching, the millions of Americans currently incarcerated in state or federal prisons will likely be finding ways to celebrate the holidays behind bars.

As an early Christmas present, here are five legal ways to celebrate the holidays in prison:

Obama Commutes Sentences in 8 Crack Cocaine Cases

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine crimes.

The president commuted the prisoners' sentences after deciding that their crack cocaine offenses didn't warrant such lengthy prison sentences, The New York Times reports.

It should be noted, however, that commuting a sentence is not exactly the same as receiving a presidential pardon.

Sara Kruzan, a California woman who killed her former pimp as a teenager, is set to be released after originally being sentenced to life in prison.

Kruzan had been serving 25 years to life on a commuted sentence. But a parole board is expected to grant her freedom after serving more than 15 years behind bars, CBS News reports.

Why? It's all because of a new California law regarding juvenile life sentences.

YouTube DUI Confessor Gets 6 Years in Prison

Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man dubbed the "YouTube DUI Confessor," has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison and a lifetime loss of driving privileges for aggravated vehicular homicide.

In his video confession, which has drawn more than 2 million hits on YouTube, Cordle "accept[ed] full responsibility" for his actions and was prepared to face a lengthy prison sentence, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

But will he actually have to serve the full sentence?

Mo. Execution Halted Over Propofol Concerns

Missouri executions will not be carried out by lethal injections via propofol after all. The state was slated to be the first in the country to use the anesthetic in an execution scheduled for October 23.

But on Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon halted Allen Nicklasson's execution until the state finds a new drug to use in lethal injections.

The decision came after the drug's German manufacturer said using propofol for executions could lead the European Union to ban the export of the drug to the United States.

Some convicts and people who get arrested (especially celebrities) are placed in a sort of "protective custody" in jail or prison, segregated from the general population. But it's not just TV and movie stars who get this kind of treatment.

Often a person is placed in protective custody because of an increased risk of harm or death from other inmates. In some cases, it is a measure to prevent potential self-harm or suicide.

What exactly is protective custody behind bars, and who gets it?

'Sesame Street' on Parents in Jail: Top 5 Tips

There are more parents in jails and prisons than people might realize. In fact, 1 in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars -- more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed in the armed forces, according to a Pew report. It's a serious issue, but the topic is rarely broached because of the stigma.

Leave it to "Sesame Street" to tackle a topic that others are too afraid to touch. The show has introduced Alex, a blue-haired and green-nosed character with a hoodie, who is the first Muppet to have a dad in jail, reports Today.com.

Here are five tips for parents behind bars, inspired by the general awesomeness of "Sesame Street" and its "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" initiative:

Legal Issues for Moms Behind Bars

With Mother's Day approaching, we want to remind readers that moms behind bars have legal rights, too. But what are those rights, and are they being enforced?

A report by the National Women's Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights explored a range of important issues affecting pregnant and parenting women who are in prison. Though the study was conducted a few years ago, the issues addressed are still important.

Here are a few legal areas that affect incarcerated mothers to this day:

Would You Choose Corporal Punishment Over Jail?

Are the days of flogging back? A Montana state lawmaker wants criminals to be given a choice: Serve jail time, or accept corporal punishment instead.

State Rep. Jerry O'Neil, a Republican, wants that option for all misdemeanor and felony convictions in Montana. The exact type of corporal punishment isn't spelled out in the bill. But what it does say is that corporal punishment will be "the infliction of physical pain on a defendant to carry out the sentence negotiated between the judge and the defendant."

Would you choose such an option?