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How to Contact Someone in Prison

When a loved one is incarcerated, maintaining communication is crucial but can also be confusing due to prison restrictions. This article outlines the main methods for contacting someone in prison, including phone calls, video visitation, email, and postal mail.

Overview of Prison Contact Rules

Prisons tightly control all communication between inmates and the outside world. Understanding key limitations is important:

  • All contacts are time-restricted and monitored, except privileged legal communications.
  • Email, mail, and video chats may be screened by staff prior to delivery or display.
  • Contact with crime victims or co-defendants is strictly prohibited.
  • Some high-risk inmates have severe communication restrictions.
  • Caller ID and contact addresses may be blocked for security reasons.

But staying in touch remains critical for support, so families must navigate prison policies.

Phone Calls

Phone communication is the most common and flexible channel:

  • Since inmates cannot receive calls, all connections must be initiated by approved outside callers.
  • Collect call systems through prison phone providers allow calling at the recipient’s expense.
  • Call length limits, typically 15-30 minutes, spread access across all inmates.
  • Frequency is often capped at 1 call per day or less.
  • Monitoring and recording for security is routine other than privileged legal calls.
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Despite costs and limitations, regular phone contact provides a lifeline.

Video Visitation

Many prisons now provide on-site and remote video visitation:

  • On-site kiosks allow scheduled virtual sessions with visitors at home.
  • Specialized home visit apps enable calls from a personal device.
  • Session lengths follow in-person visit rules, about 1 hour each.
  • Frequency is far more restricted than phones, often 1-2 video visits per month.
  • Monitoring and recording still apply to video chats.

Seeing loved ones visually provides comfort despite limited availability.


Secure monitored email systems are an emerging option:

  • Senders must be approved and registered with valid credentials.
  • Emails from inmates have content filters and may undergo screening.
  • Frequency is capped, typically around 3-5 emails per week allowed.
  • Printouts may be delivered on request due to restricted inmate computer access.

Email provides convenience but with typical prison constraints.

Postal Mail

Exchanging traditional letters remains widely available:

  • No limits on sender identities, but real return addresses are required.
  • Screening for contraband and concerning content occurs.
  • Envelopes and content limits reduce problematic materials.
  • Greeting cards and postcards are common approved items.
  • Frequency and volume are uncapped beyond staff processing bandwidth.

Written correspondence maintains a personal connection.


Navigating prison visitation, phone, video, mail, and email policies poses challenges but maintaining healthy communication is paramount. Understanding a facility’s constraints while maximizing use of all available channels keeps vital support intact during incarceration. This upholds relationships during difficult times and improves inmate outcomes.

FAQs About Contacting Inmates

Can people on an inmate’s restricted contact list still write letters?

Yes, mail restrictions apply more narrowly than visitation lists. But emails and calls may be limited.

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Does an inmate have to accept all attempted contacts?

No, inmates can block specific phone numbers or request removal of visitors from approved lists.

Are prisons required to provide free postage for legal mail?

Yes, correspondence with registered attorneys and courts must have postage covered by the prison.

How can senders get around mail screening to guarantee delivery?

There is no way to avoid screening. Prohibited content may lead to suspensions or bans.

Can prisoners receive print newspaper or magazine subscriptions?

Generally no, due to both content concerns and lack of inmate access to cash to pay for subscriptions.

What are signs a prison may be overly restricting communications?

Limits far below published policies, denied visits without cause, and blocked privileged legal calls require investigation.

How can approved contacts safely communicate concerns about an inmate’s treatment?

Legal mail offers one protected channel, or external prison advocates can be contacted discretely.

Imran Khan

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About us

We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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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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