Sending a care package to an inmate of a [Los Angeles county jail or prison](http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Facilities_Locator/) is one way to alleviate an otherwise pretty miserable experience for him. **Care packages are either pre-chosen or customized collections of gifts for inmates.** These packages are frequently made of food items, though larger packages can contain clothes, toiletries, shoes, radios and CDs. What sorts of packages you can send depend on the correctional facility, company it uses to provide them and the inmate's privileges.
At the time of publication, Los Angeles County correctional facilities only allow you to send care packages that are sold by independent, approved commissaries. A number of commissaries are contracted with jails and prisons throughout Los Angeles County, including Access Securepak and Golden State Care Packages. Each facility only uses one commissary, so check with jail staff before you place an order. You aren't allowed to send a care package from a commissary other than the one the facility works with, and you can't put a package together yourself and mail it. If you do either of these, your package won't be accepted.
Making an Order
Depending on the commissary, you can make orders online, over the phone, through fax or through email. Check the commissary's website for specific ordering directions. Before you order, you'll need to create an account and provide your loved one's inmate number. If you don't have the number, call the jail or search her name on the jail's website. Some commissaries offer an inmate number look-up on their websites. Weekly care packages are delivered once a week on a day determined by the correctional facility. There may be a limit on how much you can spend on any one inmate, no matter how much you'd buy.
What You Can Buy
Weekly deliveries consist of basic food items that help flesh out an inmate's meager meals. These foods are often conspicuously junk food:
- ramen soups
You may be able to purchase condiments and spices. Check with the correctional facility before you buy anything that needs to be prepared, including coffee, tea or dried rice dishes, in case your loved one doesn't have access to hot water and utensils. Other deliveries are considered quarterly or annually and can contain much more, up to a certain weight. In these you may be able to include:
Again, check with the facility for its policies.
Another Gift Idea
Correctional facilities usually have their own commissaries and vending machines. Donating money to your loved one gives him a least a little autonomy in that he can buy things like shampoo, soap, snacks, soups and salt for himself without having to be dependent on the care package. Check with the facility for ways to set up an account for your loved one so he has access to the funds. You may also be able to purchase phone cards so he can stay in touch with you and other friends and family members.