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How to Contact a Prisoner

Maintaining communication with incarcerated loved ones is crucial, but can be challenging due to prison restrictions. While in-person visits are limited, there are several methods available to contact prisoners depending on facility rules. This article provides guidance on reaching out to inmates through phone calls, video chats, email, and postal mail.

Understanding Prison Contact Restrictions

Prisons tightly control outside inmate communications to prevent security risks. Key limitations include:

  • Phone calls and video chats are time-restricted and monitored.
  • Emails and postal mail may be inspected by staff before delivery.
  • Some high-risk inmates have all contact severely limited.
  • Contact with crime victims or co-defendants is prohibited.
  • Caller ID and real addresses may be blocked for protection.

But within these constraints, continual connection helps tremendously during incarceration.

Phoning Prisoners

Phone calls are the most common way to contact an inmate:

  • Every prison has collect call systems since prisoners cannot receive calls.
  • Special prison calling contracts offer lower per-minute rates but fees still add up.
  • Call duration limits range from 10-30 minutes.
  • Frequency may be capped at 1 call per day or less.
  • All calls except privileged legal ones are monitored and recorded.
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Prepaid accounts and voice messaging options can ease costs and improve access.

Video Visitation Systems

Many facilities now offer video visitation systems:

  • On-site terminals allow scheduled virtual visits with remote visitors.
  • Home video visit apps provide convenient remote call options.
  • Sessions lengths are restricted similar to in-person visits.
  • Frequency is far more limited than phone calls, often 1-2 times monthly.
  • Monitoring and recording for security applies as with phone calls.

Video visits improve personal connection but availability is still limited.

Emailing Prisoners

A growing number of prisons offer secure monitored email systems:

  • Senders must create an authorized account with identifying information.
  • Outbound emails from inmates are restricted with content filters.
  • Incoming emails may have size limits, links disabled, attachments barred.
  • Frequency is often capped at 3-5 emails weekly.
  • Printouts delivered on request or to communal kiosks to limit tech access.

Email provides more convenient contact but with typical prison constraints.

Sending Postal Mail to Prisoners

Traditional paper mail remains widely available:

  • No restrictions on sender identities, but real return addresses required.
  • All incoming and outgoing mail is inspected for contraband and content.
  • No hazardous materials like stickers, glue, or multimedia allowed.
  • Letters limited to 6-10 pages to prevent coded messages.
  • Postcards and greeting cards are commonly permitted.
  • Frequency and volume have no limits beyond staff processing capacity.

Though slowest, handwritten letters maintain an important personal connection.


Prisoners have restricted but essential options to remain in contact with loved ones through phone calls, video chats, electronic messaging, and postal mail. Each method has limitations and costs, but combining channels provides necessary human connection. With planning and understanding of rules, families can maintain supportive relationships despite the barriers.

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FAQs About Contacting Prisoners

Can prisoners access social media or other internet sites?

No, inmates have no internet access for security reasons aside from very limited approved purposes.

Are prison emails read by staff before delivery?

All emails may be screened for banned content, key words, codes, or suspicious attachments.

Is call or visit content limited beyond typical monitoring?

Legally, prisons cannot restrict discussing legal matters, medical issues, or filing grievances.

Can prisoners receive printed photos?

Yes, most prisons allow a limited number of photos to be mailed in as long as they meet content guidelines.

Are phone or video calls allowed with multiple outside participants?

Usually not – phone calls are limited to one recipient and video visits may include just 2-3 approved visitors.

Can prisoners exchange real-time electronic messages with outside contacts?

No, all digital communications have delays to allow screening. No unchecked direct messaging is permitted.

How can senders cover costs of frequent prisoner contact?

Prepaid phone accounts, email stamp programs, and pooling resources with other senders help reduce individual costs.

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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