Inmate Mail Rules and Regulations Explained

iEditorial Note: These blog posts represent the opinion of DoNotPay’s Writers, but each person’s situation and circumstances vary greatly. As a result, you should make sure to do your own independent research. Because everyone is unique, our self-help tools are never guaranteed to help with any specific situation. DoNotPay is not a law firm and is not licensed to practice law. DoNotPay provides a platform for legal information and self-help.

Learn Everything About Inmate Mail Rules and Regulations

Inmate mail regulation is a set of special rules that determine what and how can be sent to prisoners. Life in prison is anything but simple. Apart from inmate visitations, receiving a package might also alleviate the lack of communication with friends and family.

If you have a dear person who is currently imprisoned and you want to make their days a little easier, we’ll explain the mail regulation system for prisoners. This article will also show you how to write to a prisoner and address a letter to an inmate properly.

Are the Inmate Rules and Regulations the Same in Every State?

The answer is no. Certain universal prison mail rules do exist, but the specifics are different in every U.S. state since each has its separate laws that must be respected. This difference usually lies in the number of permitted items that can be sent or other quantity regulations. The rules prescribed in some states may not apply to others.

Before you send anything to an inmate, you should check the state regulation in detail. This also includes checking the district rules according to the prison location.

Am I Allowed To Write a Letter to an Inmate?

Yes, you can write letters to inmates. Every prisoner has the right to receive written messages from their family and friends. The number of letters they can exchange is unlimited in most states. The only exception applies to correspondence between two incarcerated persons. Most states don’t allow inmates to have prison pen pals.

Prisoners can receive the following:

  • Cards
  • Letters
  • Drawings
  • Photographs

You can send only physical letters to inmates, and you have to do it via post. Handing anything to an inmate personally is strictly forbidden. Prisoners don’t have access to the Internet or email for security reasons, which is why they are unable to receive digital messages or use social networks.

Mail sent to prison undergoes strict control by the authorities before they reach the intended recipient. Once the jails staff confirms that there are no potential threats or secret messages, they hand over the letters to the inmate.

What Do I Need To State on the Envelope When Sending a Letter to an Inmate?

To send a letter to your spouse, friend, or family member in jail, you need to state the following information on the envelope:

  1. The full name of the inmate
  2. The name of the prison/detention center
  3. The address of the institution
  4. Eight-digit inmate registration/ID number

How To Write a Personalized Letter to Your Incarcerated Loved One With DoNotPay

If you make a single mistake while addressing your letter, for example, miss a number, it might get lost, and your loved one might never receive your comforting words.

Our app plays the role of the virtual post office service and guarantees to deliver the letter to your special person. The perks of this feature include loads of handy templates and special edition holiday cards.

To send a digitized letter with DoNotPay, access the app from your and follow these steps:

  1. Find the Connect With an Inmate category
  2. Select the Send a Personalized Letter option
  3. Add the inmate’s personal info such as their name, ID number, the name of the prison, etc.
  4. Compose a message or pick one of the available templates
  5. Attach photos by uploading them to our app if you like

We will print out your message and make sure your loved one receives it.

That’s not all! They can also respond to your letter through the same feature in the following way:

  1. The inmate writes a letter and sends it to us
  2. DoNotPay turns it into a digital message
  3. The message gets forwarded to a special section called Virtual Mailbox

You can check their answer by choosing the Virtual Mailbox option from the menu within the Connect With an Inmate feature.

How To Locate an Inmate Using DoNotPay

Apart from enabling you to communicate with your incarcerated loved ones, we also help you locate your imprisoned friends or family members. DoNotPay scans the facilities where your person might be held only by their name and state.

This is a simple, three-step procedure:

  1. Open DoNotPay and choose the Connect With an Inmate category
  2. Click on Locate Someone
  3. Enter the necessary details

What Else Can I Send Except Letters?

Other items you can send to an inmate are:

  • Publications
  • Money
  • Approved packages

In the following sections, we will explain what each of them includes.

What Publications Can I Send to an Inmate?

Almost all prison authorities allow their inmates to receive certain publications to help them use their spare time wisely and educate themselves. Acceptable reading material includes:

  • Books
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Pamphlets

The number of publications an inmate can receive per week or month varies from state to state.

Note that you can’t bring the books and magazines to the prison or send them directly to an inmate. The only way is to order the publications from the publishing companies and have them sent to the prisoner.

How Can I Send Money to an Inmate?

To allow you to send funds to an incarcerated person, the prison authorities usually need to determine whether your connection with the inmate is strong enough. All the funds you transfer to the inmate’s account turn into credits they can use to buy some necessities within the prison facilities.

Some of the services that offer money transfers to prisoners are:

The daily limits of the transferred amounts also depend on the state regulations, as well as the processing time.

What Can Approved Packages Contain?

Jail authorities allow inmates’ friends, spouses, or family members to send pre-approved care packages to their loved ones. As their name suggests, these parcels have to be approved before shipping.

You won’t be able to bring the package yourself. You must order goods from the retailer and have them sent to the correctional facility.

These packages might include:

  • Clothes
  • Cosmetics
  • Foods and drinks

What Can’t Be Mailed to an Inmate?

Restrictions regarding the items you can send to a prisoner are numerous. Check out the table below for common yet prohibited items:

CategoryProhibited items


  • Stickers
  • Letters containing coded messages
  • Material that spreads hate
  • Photographs showing any kind of explicit content
  • Written messages containing any kind of explicit content
  • Photographs showing other inmates or people related to the crime the prisoner committed
  • Drawings and photographs bigger than 4x6 inches (these measures might vary)


  • Books, magazines, or newspapers containing explicit content
  • Reading material that promotes hate, racism, or any unacceptable behavior

Care Packages

  • Drugs
  • Jewelry
  • Weapons
  • Sharp items
  • Matches, lighters, and cigarettes
  • Stationery or writing/drawing materials
  • Items and products that exceed the proposed dimensions
  • Items and products that aren’t approved by the prison authorities

What Else Can DoNotPay Do?

This isn’t all we can offer. We encourage you to explore our tips related to inmate calling services such as Global Tel Link or Securus, text messaging, and other ways of contacting inmates. You can also learn what inmate packages are and find out more about certain providers such as Access or iCare.

If you access DoNotPay from your , you’ll find out more about all the ways we can assist you with other issues, including:

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