It’s important to stay in touch with your incarcerated loved one through visits and phone calls. We talk a lot about that. We also think it’s really important to send letter, pictures and gifts to your loved one to give them something to look forward to and to brighten their day just a bit.
With so many communication devices and apps at our disposal, we can sometimes forget that our incarcerated loved one doesn’t have access to these conveniences. We can’t even imagine what that must be like. They aren’t able to FaceTime or inbox anyone or even get texts with pics of the kids.
That means it’s time to get creative and think about some of the items on this list that will brighten your loved one’s day. We know they’ll appreciate it.
- Care packages
Most facilities don’t allow inmates to receive homemade care packages. The security risks are to high. If you want to send things like food, clothing and other gifts to incarcerated loved ones, you can choose items from print and online catalogs supplied by care package companies.
The good news is there are hundreds of items to choose from, but you can’t personalize any of them. It’s also a bonus that you won’t have to stress over what is or isn’t allowed at your loved one’s facility.
The care package companies are also aware of the limitations on the amount of items allowed each prisoner and how often inmates can receive packages. Just make certain that you aren’t being overcharged for the items and beware of scams.
- Books, magazines or newspapers
It may be stating the obvious to say that your incarcerated loved one may get a little bored while in prison. Most every facility allows books, magazines and newspapers, but you can’t just pull one off the shelf at home and send it.
The books you send must be new and they must be in paperback and you can typically only send three at a time. Magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler are not allowed.
Perhaps the easiest way to send books, magazines and newspapers is through Amazon, which has a helpful how-to page for sending books to inmates. When ordering from Amazon, you have to remember to ship it via USPS only using the inmates name, facility name and address.
- Printed photos
Since your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, you have to send printed photos to brighten his day. Maybe you have a glam shot of yourself or one with the kids having some fun. Keep in mind that just like letters, your photos will also be inspected.
Make sure your photos are 4×6” prints. To make it easier on the prison staff, which will expedite your loved ones’ receipt of the photos, print the inmates name and ID number on the back of the photo with a pen. Make sure you only send three to five photos at a time in an envelope with a single stamp. Many facilities limit the number of photos an inmate can receive at a time.
Never send sexually explicit photos or photos that contain nudity. And make sure there are no hand gestures or tattoos in the photos that can be interpreted as gang affiliations.
- Greeting Cards
Can you send an inmate cards? This is a common question we get asked. You can send holiday and birthday cards to an inmate but they must not have any electronics or popup/out content. They must also adhere to the policies surrounding appropriate content (no nudity or sexually suggestive material no matter how funny), and they cannot have glitter, stickers or anything else that makes the card different from a normal plain old card.
- Old school letters
When you do write to an inmate, there are some things you must not do unless you want your letter to be rejected. Your loved one will never receive it so it only makes sense to follow the rules.
The letters are inspected by prison officials so do not include anything in the letters you would consider private. You also don’t want to use anything that can be a secret code like special drawings or markings. And never send perfumes or lipstick. Finally, make sure the letter is written in crayon or marker. It should also not contain glitter or be held together with paper clips or staples.
There are a lot of scams so never pay someone to mail anything to your loved one. You can send it just as easily yourself if you follow the facility’s guidelines.