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How Much Does Write A Prisoner Cost?

Writing to prisoners is an important way to provide friendship and emotional support to incarcerated individuals. However, corresponding with inmates does come with certain financial costs. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various expenses associated with writing to prisoners, including stamps, envelopes, paper, and commissary funds.

Postage and Mailing Supplies

The most basic cost of writing to a prisoner is paying for postage and mailing supplies. Here are the key expenses:


  • The current cost of a 1 oz. first-class mail stamp is $0.58.
  • Most prisoner letters weigh 1 oz. or less, so one stamp is enough postage.
  • Some facilities only accept metered postage, not stamps.


  • A box of 100 basic #10 envelopes costs around $8-$12.
  • Envelopes should be plain white with no decorations or stickers.
  • Make sure the envelopes are the correct size according to the facility’s mail policy.

Paper and Writing Supplies

  • A 100-pack of lined white paper costs about $3-$5.
  • Pens, pencils, and basic stationary supplies add another $5-$10.
  • Most prisons prohibit colored paper, markers, glitter, stickers, and thick cardstock.

So for about $20 worth of stamps, envelopes, and paper, you can write dozens of letters to incarcerated pen pals. This covers the core mailing costs but does not include any commissary support.

Sending Money for Commissary

Another common expense when writing to prisoners is sending funds for their commissary accounts. Here are some key points about providing commissary support:

Commissary Accounts

  • Prison commissaries sell food, hygiene items, clothing, postage, and other necessities.
  • Inmates use commissary funds to supplement the basic necessities provided in prison.
  • Each facility has different rules about how much money can be deposited in accounts.
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Depositing Funds

  • Most prisons provide money order or online deposit options for commissary accounts.
  • Money order deposits range from $20-$300 depending on the facility.
  • Online deposits often have higher maximum amounts up to $500.

Frequency of Deposits

  • How often you add money to an inmate’s account depends on your relationship and their needs.
  • Occasional deposits on birthdays or holidays can provide a nice boost.
  • Ongoing weekly or monthly deposits help ensure their basic needs are met.

Cost Considerations

  • While not required, consistently funding a pen pal’s commissary can become quite costly.
  • Before committing to regular deposits, consider your own financial situation first.
  • Setting clear boundaries is important to avoid any feelings of obligation.

Adding even small amounts of commissary support shows additional care and commitment to your incarcerated correspondents. But be sure to only provide what your own budget comfortably allows.

Total Estimated Costs

So what’s the grand total for how much it costs to write a prisoner? Here is a breakdown of estimated expenses:

  • Stamps, envelopes, paper: $20 initial supplies
  • Occasional money orders: $40-50 per year
  • Monthly commissary deposits: $300-500 per year

The cost for postage and mailing supplies stays relatively low at around $20 to start. Sending the occasional money order for birthdays or holidays costs about $40-$50 per year. Regular monthly deposits of $25-$50 can add up to $300-$500 over the course of a year.

Of course, these costs vary widely depending on how frequently you write and how much commissary support you provide. Building a budget that works for your own financial situation is key. But for many, the rewards of providing support and friendship outweigh the costs.

Rewards of Writing to Prisoners

More important than the material costs are the intangible emotional rewards that come with corresponding with inmates. Here are some of the key benefits:

Providing Social Connection

  • Prisoners are isolated from society with limited outside communication.
  • Receiving letters helps inmates feel connected to the outside world.
  • Kind words provide comfort and hope during a difficult time.
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Emotional Support

  • Incarceration is mentally and emotionally taxing.
  • Letters help lift inmates’ spirits when they need it most.
  • Though you can’t physically be there, you can still offer caring support.

Reducing Recidivism

  • Studies show inmates with outside support adjust better when released.
  • Lower recidivism rates benefit both individuals and communities.
  • Your friendship can help empower them to make positive changes.

While you give your time, compassion, and financial assistance, you may get even more in return. Writing to inmates provides the chance to profoundly impact someone during a vulnerable time. Forging these meaningful connections yields rewards that extend far beyond monetary costs.

Key Takeaways on Prisoner Correspondence Costs

Writing to those behind bars requires both financial and emotional investment but can be tremendously worthwhile. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Budget approximately $20 for starter postage/stationary supplies.
  • Set reasonable limits for occasional or recurring commissary deposits.
  • Prioritize showing compassion and friendship more than material support.
  • Remember the meaningful rewards that come from true human connection.
  • Find ways you can make a difference through simple acts of kindness.

The physical costs of correspondence pale in comparison to the inner fulfillment this unique form of volunteering provides. Change someone’s life for the better simply by reaching out, one heartfelt letter at a time.

Convicted Criminals Profile Table

NameCrime CommittedDate ConvictedNotable Conviction Quote
Bernie MadoffPonzi scheme fraudMarch 12, 2009“I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal.”
Joaquín “El Chapo” GuzmanDrug trafficking, organized crimeFebruary 12, 2019“There was no justice here.”
Charles MansonConspiracy to commit murder and other chargesJanuary 25, 1971“Look down on me and you see a fool; look up at me and you see a god; look straight at me and you see yourself.”
John Wayne GacyRape and 33 counts of murderMarch 13, 1980“Kiss my ass.”
James “Whitey” BulgerRacketeering, extortion, conspiracy to commit murderAugust 12, 2013“I’m going to sleep during this trial.”


Writing to incarcerated individuals comes with financial costs for postage, supplies, and commissary support. But cultivating meaningful relationships with prisoners through letter writing has the potential for immense emotional rewards as well. Providing friendship and compassion during a difficult time can profoundly impact someone for the better.

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If you’re able to commit to consistent correspondence and have the financial means to cover basic costs, writing to a pen pal inmate can be a uniquely fulfilling form of volunteering. With patience and understanding, these special connections forged from paper and ink can change lives, one letter at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Writing to Prisoners

If you’re considering writing to an incarcerated pen pal for the first time, chances are you have some questions about the process. Here are answers to 5 of the most frequently asked questions:

How do I find a pen pal inmate to write to?

There are a few great resources to help locate prisoners seeking correspondence:


These sites let you browse prisoner profiles and find those with similar interests. Be sure to read their bios closely to find a genuine connection.

What are the rules for writing to prisoners?

Every facility has different mail policies, but here are some common regulations:

  • Send letters in standard envelopes with no decorations.
  • Use white lined paper with blue or black ink only.
  • Include your full return address in the letter and on the envelope.
  • Avoid inappropriate content like nudity, violence, or contraband discussions.

Check the specific mail guidelines before sending your first letter to avoid issues.

What should I write about in my first letter?

In your introductory letter, share a bit about yourself and why you want to correspond. Ask thoughtful questions to get to know them better. Keep it friendly and open without getting too personal right away. With time, your conversations can gradually build in trust and depth.

How often should I plan to write?

There’s no set schedule, but writing at least 1-2 times per month helps maintain a solid connection. Some dedicated pen pals write weekly or even more frequently. Go at a pace that fits reasonably within your own schedule.

When can I visit my incarcerated pen pal?

Most prisons have strict regulations for in-person visits. Oftentimes you cannot visit until:

  • After exchanging letters consistently for a certain period of time.
  • After background checks and approvals are conducted.
  • When you are placed on the inmate’s approved visitors list.

Patience and persistence are key if you hope to eventually visit in person. Just focus first on building a strong rapport through writing.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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