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Why Can’t I Send Money to a Prisoner? Examining Prison Policies

Many people with incarcerated loved ones wish to provide them some financial support during their prison sentence. However, most prisons place strict restrictions on sending money to inmates. Attempting to transfer funds directly to a prisoner will typically be blocked.

Prisons severely limit inmates’ access to outside money for various security and administrative reasons. While well-intentioned, directly funding a prisoner’s account or commissary purchases is usually prohibited by correctional policies.

Understanding precisely why money cannot be sent to inmates requires examining standard prison financial regulations. There are some options for indirectly providing limited monetary aid through approved channels. But the days of freely sending a prisoner cash in envelopes are long over.

Key Reasons Prisoners Cannot Receive Money

There are a few primary reasons why most prisons prohibit people from directly funding a prisoner’s account:

  • Security – Unrestricted money access could enable illegal activity or violations. Prisons aim to control what enters facilities.
  • Administration – Tracking and accounting for monetary gifts would be highly burdensome for prison staff.
  • Fairness – No discrimination among inmates regarding who can receive funding from outside sources.
  • Punishment – Inmates surrender many freedoms, including financial autonomy, while incarcerated.
  • Rehabilitation – Prisons want to teach financial skills and habits, which direct gifts could discourage.
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Essentially, unfettered financial access undermines prisons’ security and control. Inmates have necessities provided and can earn small wages from prison jobs. Additional money is seen as unnecessary.

Allowable Support Options with Limits

While directly funding a prisoner is not permitted, there are some limited options for providing modest financial support:

  • Commissary Account: Add money to a prisoner’s commissary fund through approved channels so they can purchase approved items. Limit is usually $50-$100 deposited per month.
  • Phone Account: Fund a prisoner’s approved phone system account so you can communicate more. Some limits may apply on funding amounts.
  • Trust or Savings Account: Some prisons offer accounts where inmate wages can be deposited and saved under restrictions before their release.
  • Tablet Rentals: Pay rental fees so an incarcerated loved one can rent a tablet for entertainment, emails, books, or messaging access if available.
  • Restitution Accounts: Pay court fees, fines, and victim restitution owed by a prisoner via official channels.

These indirect avenues allow providing modest support under strict prison oversight. But exercising caution and checking specific facility rules is crucial.

Dangers of Attempting to Send Money to Prisoners

Trying to circumvent prison policies and directly send an inmate money through unauthorized channels carries major risks:

  • The money will likely be seized and not reach the inmate if discovered.
  • You may face legal consequences for violating remittance rules.
  • It suggests you and the inmate are trying to hide activity.
  • The prisoner themselves may face disciplinary action if caught accepting unauthorized funds.
  • Future support avenues for that inmate may be restricted.
  • You could jeopardize chances for leniency or parole if illegal methods are used.
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Rather than resorting to shady money transfers, only utilize approved channels and financial methods to assist inmates lawfully.

Why Are Financial Transactions Closely Monitored?

Prisons tightly control money flows both in and out for several key reasons:

  • Block drug contraband or other illegal items being purchased and smuggled.
  • Prevent loss or theft of funds among inmates.
  • Enforce court judgements on owed penalties, fines and victim restitution.
  • Eliminate inequality between funded and unfunded prisoners.
  • Discourage reliance on outside support rather than earning through jobs.
  • Teach prisoners financial planning skills for supporting themselves after release.

Monitoring inmates’ money enables maintaining order, safety and rehabilitation goals. Unfettered financial access would undermine the structured prison environment.


On the surface, providing monetary aid to an incarcerated loved one in need seems altruistic. However, directly funding a prisoner’s account skirts closely to violating prison policies meant to keep inmates, staff and the public safe.

The inability to simply send money to those behind bars may seem unfair and represent just one of many freedoms surrendered in prison. But disciplinary limitations exist for good reason. There are legal, approved ways to provide modest support that balance safety and rehabilitation needs.

For all involved, adapting to the difficult but mandatory constraints on financial access is an important aspect of serving time and protecting personal and institutional security.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I send money orders or cash in the mail to a prisoner?

No. Mailing cash, checks, or money orders directly to a prisoner would violate financial policies. Any money sent this way would be seized, not delivered.

What commissary items can an inmate purchase if I add money to their account?

Commissary items vary but may include snacks,hygiene products, writing materials, limited electronics, clothing, or hobby supplies. Prisons restrict purchase types to approved items only.

How much money can I put in a prisoner’s commissary account each month?

Maximum amounts vary by facility but are usually from $50-$100 per month. Sending too much at once even through official channels could still violate regulations.

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Can I transfer money to a prisoner’s personal bank account?

No, prisoners are prohibited from freely using or accessing outside bank accounts while incarcerated. All financial transactions must use prison-approved channels.

Is there a fee to add money to a prisoner’s phone or tablet account?

A small fee may be charged by the prisons’ contracted phone and tablet provider to fund inmates’ accounts. This covers administrative costs.

Are there limits on how much I can pay toward a prisoner’s fines and court fees?

There are no set limits but all restitution and legal payments must go through official court channels. The court accounts for fund disbursements.

What happens if a prisoner receives money through unapproved channels?

If caught, the prisoner would face discipline such as loss of privileges or isolation. The sender could also be implicated for attempting to violate regulations.

Can a prisoner withdraw money from their commissary account as cash?

No. Funds in commissary accounts can only pay for approved commissary purchases. Inmates cannot withdraw or transfer funds out on their own.

What could I be charged with if caught sending prohibited funds to a prisoner?

You could potentially be charged with providing contraband, drug trafficking, or conspiracy if illegal methods are used. Facility rules should list specific offenses.

How can I avoid financial scams that claim to send funds directly to inmates?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never provide personal financial details or attempt to transfer funds for someone claiming they can smuggle money into prisons. Only use official approved channels.

Imran Khan

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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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