It's not easy when a loved one is incarcerated, but keeping in touch between visiting times can help make the situation more tolerable. As well as writing your friend or relative, you may want to send him stamps, envelopes and paper so he is able to write back to you. However, some correctional facilities don't allow inmates to receive these items, depending on security levels. It's important to know the policy of the facility where your loved one is detained before you send items to an inmate.
Sending Inmates Mail
Every correctional facility in the U.S. has a guide to inmate mail, which sets out its process for sending mail to an inmate, including how to address mail and what items inmates can and cannot receive. This guide may be available on the facility's website, on the FAQ page or as a downloadable file. If not, telephone or email a jail command officer at the facility and ask for the information you require.
Make sure you know how inmates are permitted to receive routine mail. For example, Florida Department of Corrections does not permit inmates to receive routine mail in certain types of packages, including boxes, plastic bags, padded envelopes, envelopes that include metal parts or any package with packing peanuts or bubble wrap.
Read More: Rights of an Inmate in Jail
Sending Stamps, Paper and Envelopes
Before you send prisoner stamps, paper and envelopes, make sure these items aren't classed as contraband. An inmate is not allowed to receive contraband items unless these are authorized by the facility. Unfortunately, stamps, envelopes and paper are contraband in many U.S. jails. According to Washington County Sheriff's Office and Jail, if an inmate receives contraband items, those items will be returned to the sender, confiscated until the inmate is released from custody, destroyed, or confiscated as evidence in a criminal investigation. Only approved inmate items can be sent.
If your loved one is allowed to receive stamps, paper and envelopes by mail, make sure you comply with any restrictions. For example, Florida Department of Corrections allows inmates to receive U.S. postage stamps only up to the value of 20 (1 ounce) first class stamps, and up to 10 items of stationery, blank greeting cards or blank paper items. Additionally, these items must be white, off-white or yellow, and card stock, sketch paper and other types of craft paper are not permitted.
Some facilities let inmates receive self-addressed, stamped envelopes, but check whether there are any limitations. For example, Florida Department of Corrections allows inmates to receive self-addressed envelopes only up to the equivalent of 20 (1 ounce) first class stamps.
If the facility does let inmates receive stamps, paper and envelopes, follow the correct mailing procedure. Address your package with the inmate's committed name, Department of Corrections (DC) number and institutional address, and send it by U.S. Postal Service mail. Include your full name and return address on all correspondence, or your item may not be delivered to the inmate. Some facilities require your name and return address to be hand-written, rather than provided on a gummed or adhesive label.
Sending Inmates Money
If your loved one cannot receive stamps, paper and envelopes by mail, an alternative is to send her money to buy these items from the prison commissary. Check what forms of money are permitted, e.g., cashier's checks, money orders or cash, and be aware of daily limits. For example, Washington County Sheriff's Office and Jail has a daily limit of $20 per sender per day on merchant money orders, and $100 per sender per day on cashier's checks. Include the inmate’s booking number on the check or money order, and make it payable to the inmate.
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.