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How To Send Money to an Inmate

Sending money to a prisoner is for their use at commissary. Money can be put on an inmate's books using a money order, direct deposit or sometimes a check.

How to Send Money to an Inmate in Prison

Jail Guide Raven

Sending money to an inmate is often rather easy and is being made even easier all the time thanks to innovations in technology. Most larger departments are utilizing money transfer systems right within their buildings. Much like an ATM, you simply insert cash and the money is then applied to an inmates books.

There is still the old fashioned way of sending money to an inmate using Western Union, or mailing the inmate a US Postal money order. This is often the safest way as it can be tracked much better by both parties.

"What do inmates use money for if they don't pay for meals?"

This question is often the most asked and is simple to explain. In most all prisons and county jails there is a commissary which allows inmates to purchase goods much like we do at convenience stores. These goods can be deodorant, soap, snacks and beverages; basically anything that is allowed within the prison. Realize that this prison commissary merchandise is also treated like money on the inside so its best to know what your relative or loved one needs the commissary for. Often times an inmate needs to use their commissary funds to pay off a debt or to pay for protection. Its hard to know which and most likely the inmate wont say anything to you about this or to the guards.

If you are asked to put money on an inmates books (send money), the amount should not be more than they can possibly spend at one time. Meaning, there is only so much they can buy at one time - call around to other family members and ask if the inmate is also requesting money from them. A large influx of cash on an inmates books could mean trouble at the facility. If you find that the inmate is requesting money all the time, then it's likely the inmate has a problem and is paying someone.

Inmate Cons to Get You To Send Money

Here are some other warning signs of trouble and especially, what to look for so you aren't conned into sending money. An inmate will write or call you and tell you the following:

  1. "I accidentally broke prison property or property belonging to another inmate, if I don't pay for it I'll be placed in solitary and have time added to my sentence."
    Not true at all. If the inmate broke the property on purpose, maybe they would get a write up and lose some good time credit... maybe. But if it was an accident then they possibly wouldn't do anything. If it was a cellmate or other prisoner's property the inmate would simply need to replace it.
  2. "I need money for my bond so I can get out and fight my case!"
    Not true at all. Once the person has been tried for a crime and convicted... and are sitting in prison or county jail waiting to be transferred - game over. No amount of bail will free them - only time will.
  3. "I need to file an appeal, please send me money to pay my lawyer."
    Nope... if this were the case, send the money directly to the lawyer. As well, check the state where the lawyer practices to ensure they are listed with the BAR association. You can look up any BAR association in any state at no cost. You can also click here to view the ABA state bar associations
  4. "I was given an early release can you send money for my travel?"
    While this sounds like terrific news it may not be. If the inmate you are conversing with is in for "life" this is probably not the case as well if they have a sentence of a great period of time and they still have 50% or more to do. If you do want to send travel funds to the inmate it's always best to buy the ticket yourself in the persons name. This way if it is a con you can cash the ticket in yourself and no one else.
  5. "I don't have identification, is it ok if you buy a ticket in my friends name she will pick up the ticket for me."
    What? Wow, if you fall for this you deserve it. First, all prisons will issue identification to people leaving. Most people who are exiting prison don't often have ID; everyone is given a new ID. Secondly, if you are going to buy a ticket - buy it in the persons name. Again, if it is a con (and this is) you can get a refund of the ticket since you purchased it. More than likely her "friend" will simply cash the ticket and keep the funds.
  6. "I was only sentenced to a year and need to pay a fine so I can be released."
    Nope. While there may be a fine looming, or restitution, prisons and jails can't hold a person who needs to pay a fine. This person will be given parole or probation and will have to pay the fines once released. But its now a civil matter between the state or other entity to which the money is owed.

For those items that are typically ok to send to an inmate in prison go to our blog page and view the newer more complete post on Sending Money to Inmates

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