Writing to an Inmate

Writing to an Inmate

Mail correspondence is one of the privileges awarded to inmates in the US correctional system. With over two million people incarcerated in the country, mail correspondence is one of the ways you can support an inmate. Sending and receiving mail allows inmates to stay connected with their friends, family, religious leaders, educators, community members, and social services. A parent can keep in touch with a child, lovers can share romantic letters, and a stranger can send a well-meaning message. Establishing a connection between inmates and the outside world helps with rehabilitation. Inmates can also maintain a support system to ensure successful re-entry into society. However, various restrictions govern mail correspondence to maintain safety and security.  

How to Address Inmafloridate Mail? 

Inmate mail should be addressed appropriately to ensure it reaches its destination. Various details should be included on the envelope and the enclosed paper to ensure it gets to the inmate. 

Institutional Address 

The institutional address can be found on the prison/jail website. Include the address and the institution’s name on the envelope. If you do not know where the inmate is serving time, use the DOC inmate locator or the county jail locator to find the inmate. Prisons are long-term facilities that house inmates with sentences longer than one year, while jails house those awaiting trial and those serving sentences below one year. Once you know which facility is housing the inmate, use their website to access their physical address.  

If an inmate has been released or transferred to another facility, their mail is returned to the US postal service for disposition.  

Inmate Details 

When addressing inmate mail, include the inmate details so the mail can get to the desired inmate. Inmate details include the following. 

  • First name 
  • Last name 
  • Middle name 
  • Inmate number 

The inmate’s name may not be enough to identify an inmate since several inmates can have identical names. However, each inmate is awarded a unique number that can easily identify them. Inmates in state prisons have a DOC number, while those in county and municipal jails can be identified using booking numbers. If you do not know an inmate’s number, use online inmate locator tools to get inmate details. Alternatively, contact the facility and request the inmate’s information. 

Return Address 

It is also important to include your name and return address in the mail. Start with your first and last name on the top right corner of the envelope, followed by your street address, city, state, and zip code. The name helps the inmate identify who sent the letter, and the return address is useful when the inmate wants to send you mail. Mail that is wrongly addressed or does not follow the facility’s mailing rules is sent back to you.   

How to Mail Your Letter?  

Once you have written your letter and addressed it correctly, send it using the following service providers. 

It is not advisable to use courier or delivery services for inmate mail as it is likely to be rejected. If you have to use them, confirm if the prison/jail has restrictions against using courier or delivery services before sending your mail. The mail should also have enough postage for the weight of the envelope. Inmates can buy stamps from the facility’s commissary shop.  

What Items Can You Mail to an Inmate 

Before sending mail to an inmate, you need to know the facility’s mailing rules. This will ensure the mail is not rejected. Inmates are familiar with the rules and can help you avoid sending bad mail. You can also check the prison/jail website for the rules on sending mail.  

Most prisons/jails allow inmates to receive mail written on paper or greeting cards, provided it is not larger than 8″x10″ and does not have any electronic material. You can also include other items such as publications (newspapers, magazines, and books), photographs, postage stamps, and blank greeting cards. Photographs exceeding 8″x10″ or containing nude images are not permissible. Each facility has a limit on the number of pictures that an inmate can receive. Stamps should not exceed 20 first-class stamps. There is also a limit on the number of pages allowed for publications. If you wish to send an inmate a publication that exceeds the set limit, you need prior approval from the warden  

There are restrictions against certain items that can compromise the safety and security of inmates. These items include the following. 

  • Non-paper items 
  • Laminated material 
  • Drugs 
  • Staples and paper clips 
  • Nude photos 
  • Stamps  

What Information Should You Include in Your Mail 

Prisons and jails have restrictions on the kind of information contained in the mail. Topics of any kind, including romantic or sexual, are acceptable. However, you should avoid writing confidential information such as business dealings, ongoing investigations, and personal details on inmate mail. This is because all mail is subject to inspection by prison/jail officials to ensure the content and the information are per the facility’s guidelines. 

Restrictions are placed on specific topics, and the mail cannot be sent or delivered to the inmate. These topics include the following. 

  • Procedures for the construction of weapons 
  • Methods of escaping prison/jail 
  • Code 
  • Procedures for the manufacture of drugs and alcohol 
  • Threats, blackmail, and extortion 
  • Information on other inmates, such as criminal records,  
  • Information encouraging physical violence 
  • Information encouraging criminal activity  
  • Mail written in crayons 

Which Language Should You Use for Writing Inmate Mail 

Most jails and prisons allow inmates to receive mail in any language. However, some facilities only allow the use of English and Spanish. A good example is Florida state facilities that allow English and Spanish. If the inmate uses another language, they should get prior approval from the warden.  

Any mail written in languages other than English is translated by a certified translator within the institution or sent to a contracted translator for review. Mail containing coded messages in any language is rejected and sent back to the sender at the inmate’s expense.  

Can an Inmate Send Mail to Another Inmate? 

Inmates in different facilities can write to each other. The mail is subject to inspection, just like mail from other parties. Mail between inmates helps them with rehabilitation. Some institutions restrict mail from other inmates, requiring prior approval before sending or receiving mail. In some cases, only inmates with a close relationship, such as family, can send and receive mail. 

Can You Send Inmates Money Through the Mail? 

Inmates need money to buy essential items and pay for restitutions. They can receive money using various methods, including mail. The money must be in the form of a cashier’s check or money order. Prisons and jails do not allow cash to be sent in the mail. Cash is of little use to the inmate as all expenses incurred by the inmate within the prison are deducted from the inmate’s commissary account. Any cash found in the mail during the inspection is sent back to the sender at the inmate’s expense.  

Mail containing a cashier’s check or money order must be addressed appropriately and made payable to the institution. Ensure you include the inmate’s first name, last name, and number. The name on the check or money order should correspond to that on the envelope. The check or money order must also include the sender’s name. No fee is charged for sending money through the mail. 

What Happens to Rejected Mail 

As mentioned earlier, mail can be rejected if it does not conform with the facility’s rules and regulations. So, what happens to rejected mail? If the mail contains contraband that is not illegal, the mail is sent back to the sender. If the mail contains illegal contraband, the mail is destroyed, and an investigation is carried out to determine the source of the unlawful material. The facility notifies the inmate if any mail addressed to them is rejected. 

Inmates can also apply to have mail from a specific person rejected. If the facility receives mail from the person, they reject it and send it back. The sender and the receiver have the option to appeal the decision to reject the mail. The appeal is reviewed by the warden, who decides whether the mail should go through or not.  

Legal Mail 

According to the Sixth Amendment, inmates have a right to effective assistance of counsel, meaning they can send and receive mail from attorneys or courts. It must be adequately identified on the envelope for it to be treated as legal mail. The mail is subject to inspection by prison/jail officers in the inmate’s presence. The officer is supposed to inspect the contents for contraband or material that can threaten the inmates’ safety. Following the inspection, the officer marks the envelope to show the date and time the letter was delivered to the inmate. Finally, the inmate signs to show they received the mail.   

However, a prison/jail officer should not read the contents of legal mail. Reading the mail’s contents causes prejudice and inhibits the inmate and attorney from discussing confidential matters. If the inmate is sending the mail, the documents are inspected to confirm that the documents are legal and there is no contraband. The inmate should address the mail to an attorney, legal aid, or a legal firm.  

If an inmate refuses to accept the legal mail, the refusal is logged in. The officer then stamps the mail as refused and sends it back. The warden notifies the attorney and the inmate if legal mail is rejected after inspection. 

How to Send an Email to an Inmate? 

In recent years, prisons and jails have adopted electronic mail to establish quick, efficient, secure communication between inmates and their loved ones or legal professionals. Email correspondence is also subject to review for appropriate content like physical mail. Email eliminates any risk of people sending contraband. However, it might still contain inappropriate content such as nude photos, threats, and information about illegal activities and violence.  

Prisons and jails use different service providers to enable inmates to receive mail. If the facility housing the inmate uses electronic mail, create an account with the service provider and use it to communicate with the inmate. When an electronic message or a photograph is sent to an inmate, the inmate gets access to a tablet to view the message. Officers print and forward the mail to the inmates if the facility does not have tablets. Service providers charge a standard fee for inbound electronic mail.  

Electronic mail only works one way. Inmates can only receive emails from family and friends. To respond, an inmate must use traditional mail.  

Prison/jail Pen Pal 

You can also send mail to a prison pen pal. Several organizations and websites provide pen pal services. The goal for this type of mail is to find mentors, legal aid, educational opportunities, employment upon release, accommodation, and counseling. The pen pal websites have profiles of inmates who want a pen pal. The viewer can then select the inmate they want to correspond with. After choosing the inmate, the viewer can send the first message to establish communication with the inmate.  

When writing your first letter, it is vital to be clear on your intentions. Clearly state whether you are looking for friendship, romance, or you wish to offer support to the inmate. You can also offer a few details about yourself. It is advisable not to share essential details that might compromise your safety and security.  

How Long Does It Take to Process Inmate Mail? 

Once you send a letter to an inmate, don’t expect the mail to land in the inmate’s hands immediately. Mail may take a while to get to the inmate due to the procedures carried out by the institution to ensure that mail does not contain contraband. The time also depends on where you are sending the mail from. If the distance is long, the mail will take longer to get to the inmate. Normally mail takes one to six days before the inmate can receive it. The mail may also take longer if the inmate faces disciplinary action, such as segregated incarceration.