In previous blog posts, I have mentioned how important it is for prisoners to hear from friends and family. For prison inmates, communication with the outside world is extremely limited. If they didn’t have a TV or radio, the only way inmates had contact with the outside world was through visits and letters.
As you can imagine, prisoner mail has many rules. Limits vary by specific facility, but there are some general rules. If you’ve never written to a cellmate and are looking for clues, you’re in the right place. In today’s blog post, I’ll explain how to write a letter to an inmate that won’t be rejected by prison staff.
In today’s blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- All mail is subject to search
- What is allowed in a prisoner letter?
- how to solve a prisoner letter
- Many prisons now have email options
All mail is subject to search
When it comes to prisoner mail, one thing that is common across all prisons is that all incoming and outgoing mail is searched and checked for unauthorized items or substances.
Any type of bodily fluids, hair, powdered substances, or other substances that may pose a health or hygiene hazard may result in a rejection letter.
Mail inspectors are primarily concerned with attempts to send drugs through inmate mail. When I was locked up, I heard about people putting things under postage stamps and inside greeting cards. Because of this, post office workers began removing stamps before mailing letters to prisoners.
At the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons has launched a new mail policy. Letters are being copied instead of sending the originals to prisoners and then distributing copies. This is a transitional phase, as the letters will soon be electronically scanned so inmates can read their mail at digital kiosks inside the prison.
By using this method, prisoners will not have physical contact with their letters. Some states are also transitioning to this approach. However, the ACLU is challenging the policy in court.
What is allowed in a prisoner letter?
Most facilities only allow you to send paper-written letters, and most facilities allow you to include newspaper clippings or pages printed from the Internet. Other items, including but not limited to stamps, stickers, blank stationery, or envelopes, generally cannot be included in envelopes addressed to offenders. However, policies regarding stamps and stationery vary by facility.
Correspondence written in a foreign language or illegible may be reviewed or delayed depending on staff resources available for interpretation.
It should be noted that each agency may have slightly different items allowed to be mailed, and it is impossible to cover all contingencies that may cause mail to be rejected. If you have any questions or concerns about what you intend to include in your mailing, you should contact the agency’s mailroom.
If any letter, image or printed material is determined not to comply with the policy, the violator and sender will be notified. The following items will be rejected or may be subject to review. This is not a complete list.
- Photos containing nudity (any pictorial depiction without a fully opaque overlay is considered nude), including bare-breasted children and adult women
- lyrics with parental advice
- tattoo designs
- gang description
- A description of the town where the prison is located (don’t mention anything resembling a jailbreak attempt)
If any one letter is not permitted, the entire mailing will be rejected.
8½ x 11 inches of attachments, pictures or news clippings are generally permitted per letter to the facility. Some prisons require photos and personal letters to be mailed separately.
A picture is defined as a visual representation of a person, object or scene, including but not limited to a photograph, drawing, cartoon or sketch.
Only film-processed photographs and digital copies are permitted. Polaroid photos are not allowed. Photos cannot have any text other than name, date and location. Photographs of criminals are generally not permitted.
Images may not contain depictions of gang activity, pornography, nudity (including topless adults and children), pornographic images, or other inappropriate content. Altered or cropped photos are also not permitted.
I should also note that you can buy magazines and newspapers as gift subscriptions for criminals. However, please confirm that magazines or newspapers are allowed before purchasing a subscription.
Also verify that you have a complete and accurate mailing address, including the offender’s name, number and housing unit. Subscriptions must be received directly from the supplier. You can also deposit funds into the violator’s account, which the violator can use to subscribe to the journal.
Also, you cannot send care packages containing food, hygiene items or clothing directly to prisoners. However, many states have quarterly package programs where you can purchase authorized items for your inmates and send them packages indirectly.
how to solve a prisoner letter
One of the most important details about prisoner mail is the proper way to handle letters. You must always include the inmate’s legal name, their DOC number, and facility address on the front of the envelope. If you know their housing unit and room number, be sure to add that information above the facility address.
You must also write your name and address on the return address area of the envelope, or the mail will be rejected. Anonymous emails are not allowed.
it’s here prison insightall you have to do is click on the name of the facility where your inmate is incarcerated and we will provide you with details on how to send inmate mail to inmates at that particular facility.
If you do not know your inmate’s DOC number, you can look it up on the state DOC website or the BOP website, depending on where your inmate is located.
Many prisons now have email options
If you don’t want to deal with all the rules of prisoner snail mail, you can just send an email. Most facilities contract with JPAY so you can email your inmates. “Stamps” usually cost between 25 and 50 cents, and the JPAY app allows you to attach photos to letters.
If the prison does not contract with JPAY, there are other services such as Access Corrections and Securus that allow you to email prisoners.
All inmate mail sent electronically needs to be reviewed like snail mail. If you include any unauthorized content, the letter will be rejected.
Most prisons won’t let you send money by mail
While there are some exceptions, most prisons do not allow you to send money directly to inmates by mail.If you want to send money to prisoners, please do so at Prison Insights directory where we’ll share all the ways you can send money to prisoners.
Typically, you will need to use a site such as JPAY or mail the money order to a specific address for processing (not directly to the prisoner).
Have you ever had a letter to a prisoner rejected? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: BOP Correspondence Policy BOP to Implement Paperless Mail System in Attempt to Stop Drugs JPAY