How to Send Inmate Mail
If your loved one is incarcerated in a jail or prison in the United States, you can contact them by mail. Sending mail is considered one of the greatest ways of maintaining ties with incarcerated people. In other cases, you may also use email if the prison or jail accepts email communications on behalf of the offenders. To begin writing to an incarcerated person, you need to find the offender’s mailing address and booking number on the prison or jail’s official website. Remember that all mail addressed to a facility is subject to being opened, inspected, and read before they deliver it to the inmate.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) usually encourages communication between offenders, their families, friends, or other community contacts. Incarcerated inmates need to maintain ties with the community while serving their time. Mailing particularly helps with the inmate’s transition and rehabilitation. To send an inmate mail, you must first locate the inmate’s holding or rehabilitation facility. Utilize the corrections department or the BOP website to find the address of the facility or the offender’s DOC or I.D. number. These details are vital and required to communicate with an inmate.
Writing an Inmate to an Offender in a Jail
Here is how to send mail to an offender held in an American jail:
Visit the Jail’s Website
Typically, jails house offenders awaiting trial and those serving a sentence of less than a year. On the other hand, prisons hold inmates serving over a year. If your loved one is in jail, visit the particular jail’s website. These jail’s websites usually have essential information and resources such as the jail’s physical address, an offender database, and mail policy and regulations.
Suppose you are not sure about where your loved one is incarcerated, utilize the jail’s online inmate database. Alternatively, you can directly call the facility to inquire.
Search for the Inmate’s Booking Number
Some jails in the United States require one to include the offender’s name and booking number with the address on the envelope. You can locate the offender’s booking number using the inmate’s database. You can also call the jail and request the inmate’s booking number so you can send a piece of mail to the facility.
Address the Envelope
Write the address on the outside of the envelope, at the center. Ensure to write the inmate’s full name and booking number on the first line. On the second line, write the jail’s physical address or the P.O. Box where the facility accepts inmate mail. Eventually, write the city, state, and ZIP code on the third line.
Include your Name and Return Address
Remember to put your name and return address on the top right corner of the outside of the envelope. Indicate your first and last name on the first line and your street address on the second line. Include your city, state, or ZIP code on the third line.
Always leave the rest of the envelope clean. Some facilities particularly prohibit stickers on the envelope since they can conceal contraband. Other jails do not permit envelopes with stains or the smell of perfumes, colognes, or any other substance.
Avoid Sending Confidential Information
All incoming and outgoing mail to and from a jail facility are subject to search and inspection. It is advisable to avoid sending information that you would not want the jail correctional officers to read. Such information can be details related to the offender’s legal representation because the mail is neither confidential nor privileged.
Facilities allow most general topics, so you can write about anything you wish. For instance, suppose you want to write a letter of a sexual or romantic nature, you can, as long as you are okay with jail authorities reading it also. You should avoid writing about ongoing investigations related to the offender’s case or illegal activities. These topics can cause the jail officials to withhold the letter or get the inmate in further trouble.
Do not Send Prohibited Items
All jails usually have a list of accepted and prohibited items one can mail to inmates. These rules and regulations typically maintain the safety and security of the jail. Here is a list of items commonly prohibited by most jails:
- Cash and Checks
- Food and Candy
- Sexually Suggestive Pictures
- Gang-related images
- Greeting Cards
- Hardback and leather-bound books
- Items with glue, crayon, gel-ink, or white-out
Mailing your Envelope
This is quite simple! Send your envelope as you would with all other mail. You can deposit it in the mail or take it to the post office. Avoid using a courier or standard delivery services, as your delivery may be refused. Also, include the proper amount of postage for the envelope’s weight.
You can send an Email
Some jails allow inmates to receive emails through the facility’s email address or special inmate addresses. Check the jail’s official website for instructions on sending emails to incarcerated individuals and if the jail offers such services. This service can be as simple as clicking the email icon on the inmate roster or the inmate’s name within the search database. However, most often, inmates do not receive the email directly in an electronic form unless the facility offers computers and internet access to offenders.
Usually, jail officials will print the email message, read it, and then later deliver it to the addressed offender (usually on the following day). The offender will not email you back but can respond with a letter.
Remember, there are rules and regulations regarding emails. For instance, facilities limit email correspondences to a certain number per day. Additionally, these messages must not be more than a single page and must not contain attachments or pictures.
Inmate Mail in Federal Prisons
Incarcerated individuals under the Federal Bureau of Prisons custody are allowed to receive mail during their incarceration time. Usually, anyone outside prison walls can send mail to inmates, including family, friends, businesses, and other community contacts.
BOP generally prohibits prisoners from communicating with inmates in other facilities unless they are immediate family members or co-defendants. Because of contraband regulations, inmates must sign an agreement with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow prison employees to open and inspect all incoming mail for contraband before delivery.
Federal prisons receive, search, and deliver mail every weekday. On the other hand, prison officers handle outbound mail differently depending on the facility’s security level. Inmates held at medium and high-security federal prisons are not allowed to seal their mail before dropping it in the mailbox in the housing unit. In this case, prison staff inspects all letters for contraband and other rule infractions before sealing the mail. Prisoners housed at low and minimum-security federal prisons can seal their outbound mail.
Writing to a Prisoner
The BOP does not limit the number of correspondences a prisoner can receive or send. However, some rules and regulations do apply. For instance, an inmate cannot receive anything other than books weighing over 16 ounces but must have prior authorization to mail an envelope or package that weighs over 16 ounces. Additionally, since it concerns outgoing mail, you need to add every contact to your TRULINCS computer contact list and print a mailing label to accompany each envelope.
When addressing letters to incarcerated loved ones, you must include the inmate’s full legal name, and an eight-digit registration number, alongside the general routing information (such as P.O. Box number, city, state, and zip code). It can also be helpful to add the name of the prison.
Apart from letters, federal prisoners can receive photos, magazines, newspapers, and hardcover and softcover books. Generally, federal facilities permit paper-based products. Since policies differ at different security levels, the general rule of thumb is for books, magazines, and newspapers to come directly from a publisher or bookseller.