How to Find Out Who an Inmate Is Calling

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Prison phone calls are privileges the government provides to foster communication between inmates and their loved ones. However, the criminal justice system imposes limitations on telephone use by prisoners.

If you have loved ones behind bars, you’re in a position to help inmates by talking to them regularly.

How does a prison phone system work, and how can you receive incoming calls from a loved one behind bars? Is there a way to find out who an inmate is calling?

This article opens the door to the telephone system of U.S. prisons. It tackles how inmates can call their loved ones and discusses safety features like knowing who’s on the other line first before you accept a call.

Furthermore, this article talks about how to pay for these calls so your communication with your incarcerated loved one doesn’t stop.

Communicating with a loved one behind bars starts by contacting the facility where they’re imprisoned. You can get a prison’s contact information by visiting

Our site provides a database of over 7,000 correctional facilities nationwide. You can quickly get the contact information of jails and prisons in the United States.

Inmate Phone Calls

When an inmate phones you, the operator mentions their name and facility. This protocol lets you know who is calling, giving you the right to accept or deny a call.

Prison phone calls are one of the ways inmates can talk to people outside prison. Both state and federal prisons provide inmate phone call services to people behind bars to encourage communication with their loved ones.

However, even though communication with family is available, inmates can’t just call whenever and whoever they want. Correctional facilities can monitor and check whom inmates are calling and limit the duration of calls.


Prisoners have limited ways to communicate with their loved ones. Phone calls are an easy and fast way of talking to people despite their distance from each other.

As such, federal and state prisons have created telephone systems to allow millions of prisoners to talk to their loved ones. Many prisoners see the telephone as their line to the world outside.

How Do Inmates Make Phone Calls?

For an inmate to call someone outside, some prisons require submitting a list of people approved by prison authorities. Note that in prisons that require a pre-approved telephone numbers list, only those included can be phoned by an inmate.

Furthermore, calls are paid by the called party via “collect call” payment or through an inmate account funded usually by family members.

Inmates in prison have regulated the use of the phone system. People behind bars can’t use their phones anytime they want. However, despite these restrictions, incarcerated individuals depend on the phone policies set in place by the prison authorities.

Prisons usually contract with phone companies to provide telephone services for inmates. Examples of such phone companies are the following:

  • GTL (Global Tel Link)
  • Securus technologies
  • IC Solutions

Detention facilities use one of these companies to provide inmates with phone services.

How Can You Receive Calls From an Inmate?

Prisoners can only make outgoing calls, and you can’t call inmates at a whim. Prisons do not sponsor phone calls. Instead, these calls are shouldered by the inmate or the called party.

To pay for inmate calls, the prisoner makes “collect calls” to you if you’re included in the approved list. You can accept the call, and the cost will reflect on your phone bill.

Cell phones can’t be used to receive calls as mobile phones can’t accept collect calls. You must have a landline number to receive calls from prisoners.

If you don’t have a landline and only a cell phone, you can fund an inmate prepaid account with the service provider in contract with the prison. Inmate calls will be deducted from that account instead of through collect calls, so calling cell phones is possible.

Inmate Telephone System

One stark difference between regular and inmate calls is that prison officials monitor calls from prisons. The purpose of inmate call monitoring is to ensure the safety of the prison facility.

If prison phone calls are not monitored, criminal masterminds can orchestrate felonious acts inside prison. Texas prison facilities require phone numbers to be registered in their database to prevent criminal acts.

However, it’s worth noting that states have different policies regarding phone calls. It’s best to contact a prison through its phone numbers, which you can obtain by visiting

Information or Registration

States may have different rules on how to receive phone calls from prisoners. For instance, in Texas prisons, your phone number needs to be registered as part of the validation process.

Texas prison systems try to ensure that phone calls are safe and not used as avenues for criminal activities.

How Inmates Can Place Telephone Calls

Prisons have phone areas where inmates go when they want to call a loved one or a friend. Some prisons specify times when inmates can call their loved ones.

In New York, prisoners can call anytime between 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM. They can head to the phone area and dial any number approved by prison authorities. Phone calls in this state may last up to 30 minutes.

If the call is collected, you’ll receive it and get notified that it’s a collect call from prison. You can reject a collect call anytime you want.

For instance, Michigan prison phone systems ask you to press “1” to reject a call or hang up. The call is disconnected, and the inmate is informed that you’ve dismissed their call.

General Rules

Inmate calls are fundamentally different from the regular calls you make every day. Incarcerated individuals are deprived of some of their rights as free civilians. One of these rights is the right to privacy, which prisoners do not enjoy.

Inmate Telephone System Rules

Here are some basic rules concerning inmate use of prison telephone services.

  • Prison authorities monitor phone calls.
  • Inmates can only call those included in the approved phone numbers list.
  • Inmates can call collect if they don’t have funds to pay for each call.
  • Inmates have a limited number of minutes they can use per month.

Information on Time Limits

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) provides inmates with 300 minutes of phone calls per month.

The monthly phone call limit may differ per state, especially during November and December, when inmates may get extra time because of the holiday season.

Scheduling and Receiving Inmate Calls

Inmates have a specific time to use the phone systems inside a prison facility. Different federal and state prisons vary slightly in inmate call scheduling, but you can still find similarities between these institutions.

Scheduling Phone Calls

If you want regular call schedules with an inmate, you must coordinate with the prison and your loved one behind bars. You can do this through personal visits, correspondence, or emails.

You can discuss your communication schedule with your loved one on your next visit. You can also write your phone number in the next letter to your loved one behind bars to schedule your next call. Writing your number on your next love letter can be helpful when your loved one is transferred.

Receiving Phone Calls

When you receive a phone call, the providers will inform you of the details of the phone call and the name of the inmate who’s calling you. Afterward, you have the option to accept or decline the collect call.

If the prison’s telephone provider is Securus, and you don’t have an account, you’ll be prompted to create an account first. The caller must wait up to 30 minutes before they can call you back.

Recording of Inmate Phone Calls

Prison officials monitor and record inmate phone calls to ensure the security and safety of the facility and the public. However, some calls may not be recorded. An example of this is an inmate’s calls to an attorney.

How Long Do Prisons Keep Recorded Phone Calls?

Inmate phone call recordings are not considered public records and can’t be accessed by anyone. These records can’t be used in court, but law enforcement and prosecutors can request to review these files.

Records Seal

A public criminal record is essentially bad decisions kept on file due to legal reasons for everyone to see. Things that go into a criminal record are arrests, charges, convictions, or any contact you’ve made with the criminal justice system.

You can request to hide these records by sealing them. Record sealing doesn’t remove a criminal record from the public database. The record is just made “unavailable” for anyone to access unless reopened via a court order upon request.

Prohibited Inmate Calls

Phoning someone outside prison is a privilege given to inmates. However, there are types of calls an inmate should not make. Prohibited calls may include phoning:

  • Present or former employees of a state’s department of corrections (DOC) and their families
  • Present or former employees of a state’s Division of Parole and their families
  • Present or former employees of any agency of the U.S. criminal justice system and their families
  • Jurors and judges involved in the inmate’s conviction and their families
  • The victim and their families
  • Individuals listed on a court order as inmates are prohibited from phone communication

Other banned calls include three-way calls, with more than one receiver connected to an inmate’s call.

In line with this, conference calls and call merging are also prohibited. Call merging is where one calls a number and is transferred or merged with another.

It’s also best not to enable call waiting when talking with someone behind bars. Call waiting is when you can put an ongoing call on “wait” or “hold” as you take another call.

Good and Bad Topics When Calling an Inmate

Aside from the fact that inmate calls are recorded and monitored, inmates are in a vulnerable state where encouragement and hope are needed. So, you should think twice before bringing up these topics:

Know What Topics to Avoid

Here are some topics that you might want to avoid when talking to inmates:

  • Discussing plans like release dates because they can be delayed
  • Challenging and divisive topics that can lead to arguments or heated discussions
  • Topics that don’t offer any help to an inmate, especially as you’re taking advantage of limited time
  • Topics that might alert the authorities and get your conversation flagged

Suicide Prevention

Inmates may feel depressed and hopeless, such that suicidal tendencies may come out during your call. If this is the case with your loved one, immediately seek help. You can contact the prison authorities to assist your loved one quickly.

Remember that people with suicidal tendencies are in a dark place and need immediate help. Never take suicide hints lightly once you’ve noticed them in someone prone to depression, like people behind bars.

Payment Options for Inmate Telephone Services

The caller and the recipient shoulder inmate calls. It’s rare for the correctional facility to fund inmate calls unless in specific situations, like immediately after an arrest. You can pay for inmate telephone services through the following methods:

Advance Pay Calls

Advance Pay is a phone service provided by, allowing fast payments for inmate calls. Through advance pay, you can create debit accounts for prepaid calls.

Instructions for Inmates Located in the U.S.

Advance Pay calling accounts are set up by the receiving party. In this case, the inmate’s loved ones. To create an account for an inmate, you can follow these steps:

  • Check the availability of the Advance Pay service in the facility
  • Sign up for the service and make a deposit

Having a prepaid account is helpful, especially if you only have a cell phone, which can’t receive collect calls.

What to Do in Cases Where the Victim Wishes or Does Not Wish to Receive Calls From Inmates

Suppose an inmate tries to call a victim or someone who doesn’t want to receive their call. In that case, the person on the other line can use these alternative methods to inform the inmate to stop the unwanted calls.

E-messaging Service

If the facility allows email services, the victim or their family member can send an electronic message to an inmate telling them to stop calling. Afterward, they can contact the facility to erase their number from the inmate’s approved telephone list.

Inmate Tablets

Emails can be sent to an inmate’s tablet, especially if the facility approves having one. An inmate can get the victim’s message and inform them of the request not to contact them anymore.


Finally, the victims or family members can file a complaint with the correctional facility where the inmate is located to stop them from calling.

Friendly Warnings: Taking the Risk Out of Inmate Calls

Communicating with inmates has benefits and risks. You must be aware of both. The benefits include the potential reformation of your loved one behind bars through your constant support.

One risk is that they can be so severely attached to you that they might demand more interaction with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When someone calls you from jail, what does it usually say?

You’ll be notified of the inmate’s name and asked if you wish to accept the call. You can reject the call anytime, especially if you wish not to talk to someone behind bars.

2. How do you know if someone blocked you on call?

You will notice that someone has blocked your number when your call doesn’t go through. Also, there’s no notification about a call in effect, and you won’t get a standard ringtone or voicemail function.

3. Why do you keep getting calls from inmates?

One reason may be that your number is included in the approved list submitted by the inmate to the authorities.

You can contact the correctional facility where the call is coming from and ask it to remove your number from the approved list if you wish to avoid being called in the future.

4. What is currently the best inmate phone service?

Determining what’s best is highly subjective, as one’s experience with a phone service may differ from another. However, the most popular phone service providers for inmate calls are the following:

  • Securus technologies
  • GTL (Global Tel Link)
  • ICSolutions

Also, you’ll usually base your decision on the facility’s preferred phone service provider. So, it’s not much about your choice but the choice of the prison authorities where your loved one is incarcerated.

5. What mobile apps can facilitate talking to inmates?

As of now, inmate calls go through prison telephone service providers. Phone apps that might lessen the cost of calls are only possible if inmates can access gadgets and the internet.

However, both those items are not yet widely available in all prison facilities in the country. You should call the correctional facility where your loved one is located and inquire whether they provide internet calls to inmates.

6. How can you block calls from an inmate?

Inmate phone service providers offer blocking options to their clients. For instance, if you have a Securus account, you can secure an inmate by doing the following:

  • Log into your Securus account and click “Manage prepaid accounts.”
  • Click “Block/unblock accounts.”
  • ChooseAdd a block” in the upper right corner of the interface.
  • Pick the phone number you want to block
  • Select the facility or facilities you want to block and add them to the list.

Also, you can call the phone service hotline to assist in placing restrictions on your telephone account. In the case of Securus, you can call 972-734-1111.

You can contact the following numbers for other services:

  • GTL customer service department: 877-1650-4249
  • ICSolutions hotline: 888-506-8407

7. How can you remove a block from an inmate’s calls?

You can go to your settings and choose “Manage your accounts,” go to “Block/unblock accounts,” and choose the number or facility you wish to unblock. Note that this might be different from other phone service providers. You can contact their hotlines for customer support.

8. How do you add money to my phone for inmate calls?

You can add money to your incarcerated loved one’s account via the following:

  • Online transfer via credit or debit cards
  • Money transfers via phone 
  • Money order
  • In-person deposit in the prison commissary

In the case of GTL, they have methods to fund an inmate account like the following:

  • Debit calling
  • Prepaid collect
  • Collect calls

9. What new features exist for the inmates and their families?

Phone service providers for inmates are constantly trying to provide the best user experience for their customers. An example of a new feature for inmates and their families is a voicemail messaging service provided by GTL to Florida prisons.

GTL also has an automated one-minute courtesy call to instruct family members on setting up their Advance Pay phone account via GTL.

10. Are there any free communication options?

GTL provides a free weekly inmate call service for family members who can’t afford the phone rates involved in inmate calls. It’s best to communicate with the correctional facility to know the best option when contacting your incarcerated loved one.

11. What changes are there to the per-minute call rates?

Prison call rates have always been considered expensive for many. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that interstate long-distance calls, not local, in-state long-distance, or international calls, cap at $0.21 per minute for debit and prepaid calls. For collect calls, the rate is $0.25 per minute.

12. What changes are there to the call duration?

Federal prisons allow 15 minutes of phone calls for each inmate. State prisons may differ in the length allowed, but the differences vary slightly. Back-to-back calls are usually not allowed, especially if many are in line to use the telephone system.

13. What other fees exist for the new contract?

Federal and state prisons may have different miscellaneous fees, which are added to the cost of service use. The FCC lists additional fees like automated payment fees, regulatory fees, and third-party financial transaction fees.


  1. How to call an inmate the first time: Setting up a telephone account
  2. Inmate Technology Services
  3. Registering my phone number to receive inmate phone calls
  4. Securus Phone System
  5. Telephone Calls with Prisoners – The Complete Guide
  6. Vendor Phone Services
  7. What’s the Difference Between Expunged vs. Sealed Records?
  8. Fla. Admin. Code R. 33-602.205
  9. Deposit money to an inmate’s personal account
  10. Inmate Telephone System
  11. Telephone Service for Incarcerated Individuals

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