How To Send Mail To An Inmate

Sending mail to an inmate involves a few common sense methods of mailing a letter. Take the matter that every piece of mail that comes into the prison facility will be screened and scrutinized. If your letter does not pass muster then its either thrown away or mailed back to you. This is what you need to know about sending mail to an inmate.
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Sending Mail to an Inmate Made Simple

Its important to not what is allowed to be sent to an inmate and we’ll list those here, but you should also know what is not allowed (see: sending mail to inmate). Since every prison or jail has different rules for what type of mail that can be sent to an inmate we have grouped some of the easiest mail rules to follow:

When sending mail to inmates, these items are mostly allowed to be sent to convicts:

  • Photographs
  • Post Cards
  • Cartoons, Jokes and Poems as long as they are not sexually oriented or gang related
  • Colorful one-page calendars (meaning all months are on one page)
  • Newspaper or magazine clippings of current events – but nothing that includes info of who is being sent to that prison
  • Letters on colorful stationary
  • Colorful pictures from the Internet
  • Crossword Puzzles (on a single sheet of paper)
  • Birthday or Greeting Cards that are single fold
  • Magazines and Books can be ordered but only sent direct from the publisher or manufacturer

A few rules to follow when sending mail to inmates:

  • Only send mail using the US Postal service or state run postal service in your country
  • Mail may not be sent with postage due so check your postage
  • Hand delivered mail is not allowed
  • Clearly write the inmate’s complete name and or inmate number on the letter or package. Do not use nicknames.
  • Do not draw gang signs or sexually oriented images on the packaging or the envelope. These will usually be sent back or destroyed.
  • Put your return address on the envelope or package

Keep in mind that all mail is opened and inspected – so if you send something that you would not normally show someone (example: naked pictures of yourself) then don’t send them.
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Items mailed to inmates with contraband content, either as words or pictures?

Contraband content is anything that may threaten the safety, security, good order of the prison or may be detrimental to an inmate’s rehabilitation. Contraband prison content includes that which:

  • Threatens, plans, encourages, instructs in activity that is criminal or violates prison or jail rules
  • Could result in physical harm to anyone – inmate or staff member
  • Is gang related material
  • Is sexually explicit material – the most common reason for confiscating an item based on content
  • Is inflammatory material (includes anything that incites or advocates physical violence against others or the supremacy or hatred of a class or group of people)
  • Is code or suspected code (can include a foreign language and will be destroyed or sent back if the prison facility mail handlers are unable to find a translator in a reasonable period of time)
  • Is fraudulently marked as legal or official mail

Keep in mind that what you send to an inmate can also land you in prison with them. Some facilities will turn over illegal material that is sent to inmates directly to the local authorities for prosecution. It’s great to keep in contact with a friend, pen-pal or relative who is incarcerated, just be sure you Sending Mail To Inmates Policy and you will be able to send inmate mail and packages without worrying if they will receive it or not.

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23 thoughts on “How To Send Mail To An Inmate”

  1. My husband is in prison at idaho state correctional institution. I want to send pictures of me in my bra and underwear but I heard that he might get time added to his sentence for pictures like that. I would really like to know. Any help would be awesome=)

  2. I Find this information very helpful. I just sent my first letter to my boyfriend today. I didn’t know his inmate number so I called the prison where he is and they just told me to put his full name. I haven’t talked to him in 2 years because of personal reasons so I know he will be happy to receive my letter.

  3. so my boy wrote me and drew a picture for me to finish. We used to draw together all the time and he would like me to finish it but I do not want my art to be destroyed. Is there the chance it will if they feel it is gang related. I colored it and it deff has swag fasho but i dont want them to destroy it. I want him to get it. Should i draw something else and add no color. Our style is different and i do not want the prison to think wrong about it

  4. I send mail to my husband in prison on a weekly basis. he needs the support my letters bring and I need to make sure he is doing ok. I love getting mail from him. It brings back the old charm of letter writing. Yes it would be faster to email him but I think the anticipation of getting a piece of mail is more exhilarating than anything.

  5. Can you send drawn pictures to a jail because my friend says that you can’t but I want to make sure before I send my letter?

  6. Hello, I have a question, my girlfriends ex is in prison and he is asking her to send him photos of woman to sell I guess. He wants to make a catalog from prison that has all these girls in it that he can sell to other prisoners. My question is most all I have seen on mail that can be sent you cant have anything sexual sent. Is it legal?

    • Let me stop you right there. Why is her ex contacting her? Its her ex for a reason. IMHO you need to man up and cut the connection between the two because it doesn’t sound like a healthy friendship. It sounds more like he wants her to send him pics of naked girls so he can create a catalog of sorts to sell to other inmates. Run… don’t walk away from this mess.

  7. please how am i sure that the adress i am sending is valide as i sent a letter to a friend the last time and the returned my letter that she has changed location how do i know a recent or valide adress/?

    • Daniel – you can do an inmate search for them using our service. Once you find the inmate you should then contact her with a letter; I would also include the old letter that ws sent back so she knows you were trying to send her mail. Also, be sure to include her information on the envelope such as Inmate Number, Building or Unit, etc.

    • Hello Cedric, normally the mail is returned back to the sender unless the sender placed something in the envelope or package which went against the prison policy on acceptable items. If any items sent to the prison were illegal then the sender may be faced with legal action. This depends on the prison, best to check this matter with your attorney.

  8. is it possible to send books to someone in prison. How much stuff can you send to an inmate? My nephew is in Gunnison prison in Utah and I looked on their site but it doesnt say how much stuff I can send him. This is his first time in prison and I want to send him some books, candy and some clothes.

    • Hi Earl. Kudos to you for sticking by your nephew. Its going to be a tough time for him inside so any family contact will really help him make the transition better. As for sending him items it all depends on the rules of Gunnison. Please check the Utah State Gunnison Prison page for more information about what you can send and visition policies

  9. Thank you for this information on how to send mail to an inmate. I am hoping to reconnect with an old boyfriend who I found out was in prison. I understand why he went to prison and hope my letters bring him hope and maybe us closer together after all these years.

    • Hi Rose – if you mean a newspaper clipping or paperwork I dont see why not? This all depends on the prison the person is in and the rules that they have. Best to check with the prison to find out what can be included with a letter.


  10. – I find all of this information, including your rational advocating communication with inmates, very helpful and positive. Positive for everyone and I think this is a very big point that more people need to be made aware of. Thanks for this site!


  11. my boyfriend just got transfered to RJ Donovan State Prison, and I have his CDCR#, full name, I know the address of the prison, but I also know that when sending mail to that facility the PO Box is determinded by what yard they are on. So, basically my question is how do i find out what yard, and the zip code?

  12. this is very helpful but i dont know the address that i send it to and i dont know jthe inmates number howdo i find that out

    • In order to send mail to an inmate you’ll need to know at least the prison address. You can do a search at for the prison. You’ll need to know the state they are incarcerated in. Some prison staff are simply exceptional and may pass the inmate your letter if they can identify him/her by unique name. If you don’t know the inmates number I would suggest addressing the letter using their full name; to include the full spelling of their middle name. Please check with the prison they are incarcerated in as most have phone numbers for questions about their policies and procedures


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