Sending Email To Inmates
Author Andy Keel+
Unlike the standard telephone services that are common in nearly each penitentiary or detention facility, sending email to inmates and online video visitation are only available at those with the neccessary interface devices which can be expensive or labor intensive, even unsafe, if not managed and maintained properly in a secure corrections environment.
Using Electronic Messaging To Communicate With Inmates
A solution of convienience is an electronic to postal mail processor that physically prepares a letter or postcard then drops it in the mailbox with more convienience than the traditional post office visit. Exploitation of personal communications can be a risk with untrusted providers but there should be no expectation of privacy when communicating with anyone in a correctional institution. Personal letters should not contain personal information if you aren't willing to let someone else read it. Letters prepared by most online services will be handled by people with potentially prying eyes but the mail will be inspected by facility officials for contraband and money orders before delivering it to the inmate's housing unit. Legal correspondance is generally unopened or opened in the precence of the addressee.
When you send mail to an inmate in the jail or state prison, either by hand or using an online delivery agent, take take time to become personally familiar with the protocols and standards instituted by the facilty staff beforehand to avoid causing additional hardship beyond the stress of dealing with incarceration; with the cost of fuel and first class postage rising, not knowing or following the rules for sending mail to an inmate can be expensive and until you can establish trust with an online service, using a go between can leave outgoing mail vulnerable to handling errors.
Unless specified otherwise, be sure to address the envelope using the following format:
Inmate's Full Name and ID#
Name Of Facility
Street Address or PO Box
City, State Zip Code
The identification number is very important and can be found using the inmate search to look it up or inquire by phone. Because inmate correspondence may contain sensitive documents or funds for commissary, including the facility title as demonstrated above ensures there are no delays from misunderstanding the physical address.
Restrictions On Incoming Correspondance
To prevent your mail from being flagged as negative, avoid the use, or excessive use, of profanity or sexually explicit writing. Writing material can be a commodity or difficult to obtain for short term or indigent detainees, be sure to include your return address in the body when closing the letter in case the outer envelope is damaged by guards during open inspection which may be conducted with a pocket knife to scissors depending on the jail or prison postmaster.
Other restricte items, that can vary from county to county, are:
- Hand drawn or computer-printed pages
- News clippings
- Envelopes or stationary
- Stamps or postage due
- Cash or checks
- Perfumed or scented paper
- Books, newspapers or magazines (except approved publishers)
- Clothing items
This is not an all enclusive or comprehensive list, policies change at any time or without notice so that one day children can send colored pictures and the next they will be returned to sender or worse, destroyed. Written guidelines not available on the website are maintained at the administrative level including an "Approved Vistors List" which can also serve as "Approved Phone Contacts" and/or "Approved Correspondants" forms. If you have any questions, call the jail before mailing the letter to ask specifics for individual situations or to find out what items can be delivered or dropped off to an inmate by family members.