How to Send a Letter to an Inmate in 2022 | Full Guide

how to send a letter to an inmate

If you’ve never been jailed, you can only imagine how lonely a cell can become. Prisoners need interaction with the outside world. Most of them said that knowing someone cares is what keeps them going. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, all convicts, regardless of gender, want to be accepted after being freed.

As a result, there are a lot of pen pals in prison. People want to help offenders get back on their feet.

There are standards and security precautions to take when you want to send a letter to an inmate. The prison imposes its unique set of regulations in each state. Before you send a letter to someone jailed, make sure you are fully aware of the general rules, permitted content of the letter and the safety measures. 

This article will explain everything you need to about how to send a letter to an inmate.

The General Rule for Writing to an Inmate

There are general rules to follow when you want to send a letter to an inmate.

You must follow a few fundamental criteria to guarantee that your communication reaches its intended destination. The regulations regarding writing prisoners vary by state, but some are universal:

  • Make a note of the prisoner’s full name.
  • Enter the inmate’s ID number
  • In the letter and envelope, provide your name and return address.
  • Choose the appropriate envelope size.
  • Do not put perfume on the letter
  • Do not add any decorations to the letter.
  • If you want to send a book, purchase it from a merchant that will deliver it.
  • Remember that anything you submit will be reviewed by correctional personnel.
  • Don’t gift hardcover books since inmates can use them to injure someone.

The best line of action is to verify the information on the prison website where your loved one is being held. The rules should provide a detailed description of the permissible content.

See also: How Much Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Make?

What can I Include in a letter for an Inmate? 

If the letter is to an inmate you care about, you’ll know what to write. The issue is different when you have pen pals who are strangers to you.

During our research, many respondents said they do not feel comfortable revealing their home address, so they write their job or post office address instead.

Some things you should never do while sending a letter because they will result in it being returned:

  • Letters should contain dates.
  • The inmate’s first name and a formal salute
  • Specific information concerning situations in your everyday life
  • Open-ended questions about them
  • Special event and birthday gift cards
  • Never use glue, stickers, markers, crayons, glitter, or lipstick on the letter or envelope. Use no perfume or other fragrant goods.
  • Never include anything you wouldn’t want a third party to see in your letters. This is because workers read all mail 
  • Any drawings or markings that may be misinterpreted as secret code will result in refusal.
  • If your letter is denied or returned, you may contact the institution and inquire why, but a clear explanation is usually offered.
  • Do not include anything relating to a crime that might be hazardous to national security, anything racist or homophobic
  • Include nothing that can be used in court against the prisoner, including sexual or graphic material coded messages

What precautions must you take on how to send a letter to an inmate?

Because these inmates may be friends, you will be comfortable to share private information, you should, however, use care while giving information.

If they aren’t someone you know well, think twice before providing facts like your home address or anything else that seems too personal or sensitive.

Be as kind as possible and try not to condemn the prisoner, but keep yourself safe.

How to Write and Send an Independent Letter to an Inmate

Please write a letter to a prisoner and properly mail it by following these steps.

These are the steps on how to send a letter to an inmate personally;

Look over your letter for any objectionable language or improper content.

Write the name of the inmate’s prison address, full name, and prisoner ID—you may get this information on the jail website where they are doing their term.

If unsure, use your post office address as the return address rather than your full name.

Visit the post office to mail your letter.

How to write a letter to an Inmate and send a package

The information below applies to a letter or package postage before shipping it.

The complete name and location of the facility where the prisoner is housed.

Prisoner’s full name and case number

See also: What Is A Career Criminal? | Definition

Can I send photos to an Inmate?

Aside from answering how to send a letter to an inmate, we will also answer about sending items.

If there is anything a prisoner appreciates getting more than letters in the mail, it is photos

Sending an inmate a picture has many advantages. Most facilities allow you to keep your photographs. They can display them in their home, use them as bookmarks, or have picture throughout the day as an incentive. 

Furthermore, when a prisoner receives a photograph, they may be able to see the issues you have been discussing with them in letters.

The offender, for example, may see how your new car, boat, kid, pet, or vacation genuinely seems. Consider it an earlier version of Instagram.

Keep the following considerations in mind while sending photos:

A maximum of five images may be sent in an envelope with one stamp at a time, and most facilities would only accept three to five photos.

On the back of the picture, always write the inmate’s name and ID number in pen (this helps the mail room staff). 

You should never include nudity or sexually provocative content in photographs.

See also: How Much Does A Criminal Lawyer Make?

How to send Books, Journals, or Newspapers to an Inmate?

These are gifts that a prisoner may treasure for days, if not weeks, after receiving them. It’s not difficult to send books and periodicals to a prisoner. Except for temporary classification and diagnostic institutes, almost all institutions allow criminals to receive books. 

However, they state that they must come from the publisher. 

What does “from the publisher” mean? Simply put, you may purchase them on (must not be used or from third-party sellers).

One of the most important conditions for purchasing books is that they come NEW and in paperback format. They will not accept books in hardcover. If they are used, they will be ignored. 

They will be rejected if they are not from a publisher such as Amazon, and you send them in your packaging! 

It is easy to get books for an inmate from Amazon; choose USPS postage and ensure the box is delivered to the inmate’s postal address. 

Include the inmate’s ID number after their first and last names in the name area of the postal address (John Doe, 12345). 

If you are unsure about this information, please use our prisoner search feature or contact the facility directly. You must mention the institution’s name and the address where prisoner mail is received.

If I wanted to send anything to a prisoner at the Ulster Correctional Facility, for example, I would address it as follows:

John Doe 12345
Ulster Correctional Facility
PO Box 800
Napanoch, New York 12458-0800

As explained above, newspapers and magazines may be purchased from Amazon using the same checkout process. The institution will not allow adult-oriented periodicals such as Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.

They will, however, allow periodicals with popular material such as Maxim, Car and Driver, Field and Stream, Newsweek, and so on.

Keep the following in consideration while shipping books, journals, or newspapers to a prisoner:

Send all books through USPS. Provide the inmate’s name and ID number with the jail postal address. Mail cannot be delivered to solitary detainees. 

Send no more than three books at once. 

All books must be brand new. Due to security reasons, do not ship hardcover or spiral-bound books.

Should I use an Online Prisoner Service?

One of the most common scams I’ve come across is several “Prisoner Service” organizations that promote the opportunity to speak or contact your inmate online.

Don’t be fooled into believing this is all a scam since no convicts have access to the internet or other instant messaging services except digital mail services. 

Most of these companies print out your written mail and send it to you with a stamp; they charge you twice as much, often three times as much, for this service, which takes no longer to arrive than if you had sent it yourself. Aside from being a hoax, it destroys the excitement of receiving a letter.

A handwritten letter is far more personal and may give the feeling that the receiver has a connection to the writer, even if this is difficult to define.

Additional Tips

According to, there are no limits on the number of letters you may send to inmates.

We encourage family and friends to write letters to inmates to help them cope better with the release and lessen the possibility that they would commit new crimes.

These are the additional tips on how to send a letter to an inmate

Where the mail should be delivered

You must locate the prisoner to whom you desire to write.

When you know which prison the individual is in, you may send letters to them at that location.

Consider the following:

Mr. Prisoner’s Name
PO Box 6
Port Augusta, South Australia 5700

The postal addresses for each prison are shown on our jail pages.

The letter might also be addressed to our Central Office and the prisoner.

We will redirect mail addressed to the prisoner 

If they are transferred to another institution.

You must provide a return address.

This is useful if the person you are writing is not imprisoned in a South Australian jail or prison.

Delivery of mail

All mail must be delivered with a stamp by a registered postal carrier, such as Australia Post.

Without the prior approval of the general manager, mail cannot be personally delivered to jail.

Mail sent manually (with permission) will be examined and documented in the same manner as usual.

Mail sent without authorization will not be accepted.

Mail examination

All mail is tracked via a computerized system.

We’ll check the mail and open it.

The mail should not include anything and will be inspected for illegal and prohibited goods.

Newspaper clippings and photographs are acceptable but will be kept on the property and returned to the prisoner later.

We’ll read the letter, evaluate it, and translate it. This may cause the letter to be delivered to the prisoner to be delayed.

Money cannot be sent to the prisoner via the mail.

Determine the method for transferring money to a prisoner.

If you want to solicit money or goods from a prisoner, you must first get permission from the prison’s general manager.

Stickers on mail may only be attached with postage stamps. Stickers will cause mail to be returned to the sender. 

Intervention orders

Mail cannot be sent to a convict if an intervention order prohibits communication between the sender and the prisoner.

Letters, as well as legal mail, have this prohibition.

To be opened, legal mail must be stamped with a distinct, well-known official seal; otherwise, it will be regarded as suspicious.

Correspondence from lawyers and solicitors, government authorities, and organizations such as The Ombudsman and The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, is considered legal mail.

See also: 30 Jobs You Can Get With A Criminal Justice Degree


If you want to send anything to an inmate, always send a letter first. This will confirm the prisoner’s location and ability to receive presents. 

If unsure what to provide, phone the institution at the numbers listed. Remember that whatever you give an inmate will need to be kept, and some jails will only allow a certain number of things in their possession at one time. 

In other words, if an inmate has too many books, they must donate or give part of them away, or they will be barred from receiving any more.



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