Time limitations and considerable distances turn communication with an inmate into a real challenge. Sometimes it is just impossible to visit your loved one on a regular basis. Yet, staying connected can make all the difference.
We know that maintaining communications with relatives and friends has a huge impact on inmates’ life – both emotionally and behaviorally – and increases their chances of successful rehabilitation and good life choices upon release. We receive these kinds of success stories every day. We hope to encourage your support of your inmate.
Keep the following in mind:
- Visiting makes a difference
- Writing and talking on the phone helps tremendously
- Involvement and connection both create more happiness overall
The article contains everything you need to know about communication with inmates. Do not let legal details and administrative protocols separate you!
Inmate Calls to Prison or Jail
There are a certain number of phones in each facility for inmates to use to make collect calls. You do have the option of using a prepaid calling card to fund the phone calls. But in every case, there is only one telephone provider available in each facility – Securus, GlobalTel, etc. These companies have a monopoly in this market, and are able to charge high per minute rates. However, using the PrisonConnect service can save you anywhere from 30% to 90% of your phone bill costs.
The inmate should add your number to the approved list of phone numbers that they submit following initial admission into the facility. For more information on this, refer to the full article, How To Call An Inmate: Typical Pitfalls and Useful Tips.
In every facility, the prison staff monitors and records the calls. The only calls not subject to this are those made to a legal advisor. Always remember, law enforcement can use any phone recording as evidence for criminal prosecution.
Sending Emails to Inmates
Internet access is non-existent in most U.S. prisons. Some facilities do allow inmates to access email through secure, private intranets, such as CorrLinks. These intranets allow access to the secure TRULINCS system, which is used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is not the same as Internet access – you can’t send attachments like photographs or documents, and all emails are restricted to 13,000 characters.
Typically, messages sent through this type of system are delivered within an hour; however, it can take up to two days in some cases. This can vary based upon the schedule that institution allows for messaging, and the staff who review or reject the messages. Thus, the inmate’s communications can be forbidden by prison authorities (even without explanation).
If you want to try CorrLinks, you can visit their website or download the CorrLinks app. However, you will need a paid premium account for this. Once you receive an invitation, you will need the inmates’ identification code and number to complete account set up.
How to Send Money to Inmates
Inmates’ life in custody will be much easier with a little spending money. This is necessary for numerous facility enterprises, including medical treatment, prepaid phone accounts and items from the commissary.
In-facility commissary exists in every facility for the purchase of items for hygiene, food and snack items, as well as writing materials. Of course, the facility provides standard meals, clothing and hygiene products, so these purchases aren’t obligatory. To buy these items, the inmate will use the funds that you deposit into the commissary account.
There are three ways to provide an inmate with commissary funds:
- Electronic sending via MoneyGram or Western Union. Each one ensures quick payment (nearly 4 hours) to the account but charge a fee for the service. Be sure and write all information carefully and accurately, because incorrect information can delay or cancel a transfer! You can access these services by phone or from an in-person agent.
- Send funding via U.S. Postal Service – Money order only! No checks or cash. You should include the full name of the inmate and the register number (which consists of eight digits) to the money order.
Other electronic services, like JPay, and Access Corrections, can be a good alternative to MoneyGram and Western Union. Each option does have its own fees, varies in ease of us, and delivery times fluctuate. Some even have additional features such as email notification. We recommend spending some time reviewing them all to determine what works best for you.
How to Visit an Inmate
In some cases, online registration for visits is available. If this option is not available at your inmate’s facility, then you should call the institution directly and find out more specific details.
When and how often you are able to visit – and the number of visitors allowed at once – depend on the facility and the state. Depending on the classification of the facility and the inmate, there are three types of visits – contact visits, non-contact visits and video visits.
Typically, contact visitation will have a large room with tables designated for visitation. Non-contact visitation means that you can’t hug your loved one. You will use personal boxes, separated by a clear Plexiglas window, with telephones on each side.
Visitors are not permitted to take any presents or personal items inside due to security protocols. You will need your photo ID, but will not be allowed to take your wallet, money, food, gifts, a cell phone, cigarettes or lighters, books or magazines with you. Any attempts to pass these unauthorized things through security are illegal, even if you do it unintentionally. Some facilities offer lockers in the lobby for storing these items, but you should check with the facility prior to your first visit for verification.
We strongly advise against any smuggling of contraband, such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, cell phones or weapons. This is treated as a security threat and will result in immediate legal action against you, with a high likelihood that you will be staying there for a lot longer than you’d like. If you’re unsure what you can take or send, call the facility and ask.
Specific rules and requirements can vary widely across different facilities and various security levels, and by the state, too. Always check the guidelines of each institution on its website!