Writing to an Inmate


America has the largest prison population per capita in the entire world. Because of this, it’s no surprise that most people know someone who either is or at one time has been incarcerated in a jail or prison. Jail is used to punish misdemeanors, and incarceration in a county jail doesn’t exceed one year, however someone sent to prison is usually in for the long haul. 

Many friends and family members want to stay in contact with their incarcerated loved ones, but some may have difficulty bringing themselves to do so, or learning the mechanism and the manner in which they should reach out.

Why Write an Inmate?

Some people wonder why they should even try to stay in contact with someone who is imprisoned for a long period of time. The most important reason is the fact that it allows a close relationship to be maintained over a long period of time. Once a person is imprisoned, their human interaction may well be confined to authoritative officers and other inmates. This doesn’t always create the most enjoyable experiences, so having letters from loved ones is imperative.

For those who may be upset at their loved ones, it’s important to remember that such frustrations may well fade away over time. We’re always disappointed when the people we love make mistakes that land them in legal trouble, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t love them. Maintaining a written relationship will help a prisoner’s state of mind, and in reality, it goes a long way in healing the person left behind on the outside.

How to Write an Inmate

Different states have varied rules about letter writing to an inmate, but the process is pretty similar in most states. For a letter to be properly received it is usually necessary to have the prison’s name and address, the inmate’s name and that inmate’s Department of Correction’s number. For those who don’t already know this information, it is easily obtainable. In California, for instance, it’s as easy as calling the inmate locator at a specific institution, or contacting the Public Information Officer.

The aforementioned steps are used to locate inmate information in most states, but it is also important to have the right information when you call. It will make the process much easier to have as much information as possible – such as the inmate’s name, birth date and housing assignment – before contacting the official who will provide these details.

Sending Correspondence

When writing to an inmate, it’s important to remember that all correspondence given to prisoners goes through law enforcement’s hands first. Every letter, package or postcard that is sent to an inmate will be opened and inspected. It should also go without saying, but any type of contraband should never be sent.

Additionally, it’s important to note that any money orders sent to an inmate may not arrive “whole;” meaning the inmate may not receive all of the funds. After 2007 in California, for instance, 55 percent of all funds that an inmate receives began going toward the California Victims’ Restitution Fund.

It’s important to remember that those who are incarcerated for a crime are still human beings, though they have made some grievous errors in their life. It would be easy to just write someone off as a lost cause, but in reality, we psychologically need our loved ones just as much as they need us. Luckily, it’s not difficult to stay in contact with someone who is incarcerated. With very minimal research, we can stay in touch with those that we at one point chose to make important in our lives. 

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