Inmate Calling Process: How to Call an Inmate

Inmate Calling Process: How to Call an Inmate

Maintaining contact with jailed loved ones may be difficult for many reasons. For instance, some correctional facilities have strict regulations against inmate contact with the outside world. This is the case for prisoners in maximum-security sections, which monitor every inmate’s activity. 

However, regardless of the restrictions, most correctional facilities have an established calling policy. The most common is the collect call policy, where inmates make outgoing calls but cannot receive incoming calls. In most cases, correctional facilities ignore requests from family members and friends to relay a message to an inmate. The only exception is in case of a family emergency, like the loss of a close family member. However, different prisons have different definitions of emergency situations. 

Generally, how to call an inmate is a common question if you have newly incarcerated loved ones but worry not! This article comprehensively covers the inmate calling process, addressing any concerns you may have. 

Calls During Intake Process

In the intake section, some facilities allow inmates to call their family members to notify them of their whereabouts. Additionally, defendants who have been granted bail may have to call their loved ones and attorneys in an attempt to raise the bail amount. This privilege is common in some state prisons and a majority of county jails that hold inmates awaiting trial. 

Note that inmates only have this privilege for the first 30 minutes after entry into the correctional facility. Failure to take advantage of this opportunity automatically denies you the chance to make unmonitored and unrecorded calls. 

Inmate Classification

After the intake process, staff members subject inmates to the classification process. It involves assessing the inmate’s risk level and determining incarceration needs. Afterward, each inmate receives housing depending on the established risk level. This initial classification is subject to review a few months after incarceration. 

Generally, classification processes influence the following:

  • Inmate Housing
  • Inmate Program Participation
  • Visitation Privileges
  • Phone Call Privileges

Usually, there are four classification levels, namely:

  • Minimum
  • Low
  • Medium
  • High

All housing units for the abovementioned security level classifications have collect phones, although the calling privileges vary. For instance, most inmates with minimum security classifications can use collect phones throughout the week with limited restrictions. On the other hand, those with high-security classification levels have restricted and monitored access to phone privileges. 

Eligibility for Receiving Calls from Inmates 

Upon entry into correctional facilities, authorities require inmates to provide telephone lists for approval. This list contains the names and phone numbers of an inmate’s close family members and friends. 

Other times, an inmate might be willing to call you but has no way of recalling your phone number. In such a case, your name will not appear on the approved telephone list, and you’ll not receive a call. However, this situation isn’t permanent as the list is easily adjustable. The best way would be to include your phone number in the letters when exchanging mail with the prisoner. Other states like Texas allow you to register your phone number with the state’s Department of Corrections via an online website

Inmate Calling Timelines

All correctional facilities have stipulated timelines for inmate calls. For instance, most minimum-security inmates can utilize the collect calls at any time from 6 am to 11 pm. However, this timeline significantly reduces as the security level increases. It also varies depending on the institution. 

Note that issues with the morning roundups and prisoner counts considerably delay morning inmate phone use. It’s even worse in the case of facility lockdown, where all privileges are revoked.

How Does Solitary Confinement Affect Inmate Phone Service?

Over the years, prison and jail authorities have increasingly relied on isolation and segregation for inmate control. Over 40 states already operate “supermax” institutions, whose primary intention is to keep inmates in long-term isolation.

Reasons for ending up in solitary confinement are diverse. However, the most common ones are:

  • Engaging in prison fights
  • Sneaking in contraband
  • When inmates need protection from the general prison population
  • If an inmate needs specialized care like medical attention

Inmates in solitary confinement for indiscipline are almost entirely secluded from the general population. They have limited outdoor activity, with most receiving at most 2 hours of outdoor time per week. Similarly, these inmates cannot utilize telephones until they’re out of confinement. 

However, inmates in segregated housing, for reasons other than indiscipline, enjoy a fair share of privileges. For instance, correctional officers allow them to utilize telephone services at stipulated times, separate from the rest of the general inmate population. 

Problems Associated with Collect Calls

Sometimes, an inmate may include your details on the telephone list, but the authorities decline to approve them. This scenario happens if you have previously violated the correctional facility’s code of conduct, regardless of whether the violation is phone related. 

You may also experience dropped calls during a collect call conversation with an inmate. The main cause of this problem is that you have activated the call waiting feature on your phone or you’re engaging in a three-way call. So, ensure you correct the issue of dropped calls by checking on the call waiting feature and deactivating it. For three-way calls, ensure you avoid them at all costs. All correctional facilities indicate that they’re illegal and making such calls will result in strict disciplinary action, including revocation of the calling privilege. 

Additionally, it’s impossible to receive and collect calls on a cell phone. Instead, landlines are the preferred option for such calls. If you don’t own a landline phone, you could opt to register with a third-party phone call provider for prepaid services. 

How to Know a Collect Call is Coming from an Inmate

Most collect calls have recorded messages notifying the receiver that the call is from a correctional facility. Additionally, the voice informs the call receivers that they’ll pay for the call charges. Other times, the recorded message reminds the call recipients periodically during calls that they’re talking to inmates.

How to Call an Inmate using Prepaid Accounts

Nowadays, correctional facilities allow third-party service providers to offer calling services. These companies require inmates and their loved ones to set up prepaid accounts from which calling charges are deducted. During the setting up process, you’ll have to establish a phone number that the prisoner will use when contacting you; a landline, cell phone, or a work number. 

Some of the most common prepaid call service providers include:


There are several services available from ICSolutions for contacting convicts. For instance, depending on the correctional facility, the company offers video call visitations. Some states allow family members to engage in these calls in the comfort of their homes. However, in others, you must go to the facility’s visitation booth to make the call. 

For a successful video call, ICSolutions requires you to register an account and provide important inmate details, including:

  • The inmate’s incarceration facility
  • Name of the inmate
  • Incarceration number

To schedule a video call visitation, you’ll follow the same process for an in-person visit. This involves emailing the particular facility and notifying them of the intended visit. 

Additionally, ICSolutions offers prepaid and debit phone services for voice calls. Through them, inmates can call their loved ones and have the calling charges deducted from their phone accounts rather than the recipients, as is the case with collect calls. 

Securus Technologies 

Securus Technologies is one of the cheapest call service providers. For instance, the interstate calling charge is $0.21, which applies to both prepaid and debit callers. Additionally, Securus allows you to:

  • Set a limit on how much you want to spend on calls
  • Add money into the inmate’s account. Prisoners use this money to purchase call credit.
  • Utilize monthly call payments rather than daily deductions.

Global Tel Link

Global Tel Link is one of the most advanced call service providers. It allows you to leave a voice message for the inmate if they’re unavailable for a phone call. However, the facility monitors and listens to the message, so it’s important you avoid saying anything that may incriminate your loved one. 

The Global Tel Phone Number is 800-483-8314 in case you have inquiries regarding the cell phone prison service. 

How To Put Money on Phone for Inmates

Federal Inmates 

As a general rule, federal prisons do not accept third-party phone service providers. This is necessary to maintain the integrity of the BOP facilities and to ensure inmates do not use it as a chance to engage in criminal activities. 

Ordinarily, BOP prisons have their own established phone services. The charges for calls federal inmates make are deducted from their phone accounts, which they top up using their commissary funds. Other times, family members and friends may deposit directly into the phone accounts as long as they have the inmate’s BOP Number. Contact the BOP help center at (202) 307-3198 for further assistance on how to deposit. Collect calls are also available where the recipient pays for the call charges.

State and Local Inmates 

Depositing money into inmate phone accounts at the state and local levels is simple. To begin with, inmates may decide to use a portion of their commissary funds to top up the accounts. Alternatively, family members and friends may directly deposit the money into the inmate’s account when setting up a calling account. This option is available in most third-party call service providers. 

You can also contact the particular jail information number for further assistance, especially for facilities that don’t partner directly with phone call companies.