You might be surprised that inmates still need money to buy necessities, even in prison. A study in three states (Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington) showed that inmates spend $513 to over $1,000 annually inside prison, of which most were spent on food.
Suppose you have a relative in prison, and inmates could buy things they need inside. Would you send money to them? Would you like to learn how to send them money? How much will it cost to send funds? Is transferring funds to inmates safe and secure?
Sending money to an inmate is unlike your average fund transfer. You can’t just send money to inmates each time you visit them.
This write-up will help you understand inmate funds, how to send money to inmates, and the typical methods for fund transfer.
You’ll also get an idea of how much it costs to send money to incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, you’ll get information about the security measures and fraud protection provided to people sending money to inmates.
If you follow the process and learn your options, you can successfully send money to your incarcerated loved ones. You can help them purchase the items and services they need while serving time behind bars.
Just ensure that you constantly communicate with the prison facility your loved one is in. To start, you can visit LookUpInmate.org and get access to a vast database of prison facilities in the United States.
LookUpInmate.org provides inmate records and a helpful facility locator to retrieve prison facility and personnel information, which you may need to set up an account for your loved one behind bars.
How to Send Money to Incarcerated People
Sending money to incarcerated people is different from routine fund transfers. The jail or prison implements policies and regulations that limit the ability to send money to inmates including those who have hold orders. An inmate’s friends and family must know these rules to continue their monetary support.
Ways to Send Money to an Inmate
Sending money to inmates is limited to the methods allowed by the prison authorities, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The BOP has created the inmate commissary account to help families and friends send money to their loved ones behind bars. The BOP will hold the transferred funds as long as the recipient is incarcerated.
You can start sending money to inmates after setting up a commissary account, where you can transfer funds an inmate can use to purchase things sold in the prison commissary. Additionally, some prisons allow inmates to hold jobs while incarcerated.
There are two commissary account types that inmates usually have:
- Commissary account: Money sent here can be used to purchase items from the prison commissary store.
- Phone account: Money transferred here can only be used for phone calls.
You can create these accounts by contacting your inmate’s prison facility and inquiring about the commissary store. Once you’ve created this account, you can now send money.
3 Ways to Send Money
Sending money to inmates is limited as authorities prohibit prisoners from possessing money. Here are the three ways to transfer funds:
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
You can send money through EFT (electronic funds transfer), which transfers funds from one bank account to another using electronic methods. These transfers don’t require physical visits to banks.
You can send money via EFT vendors, like the following:
- GTL ConnectNetwork
- Access Corrections Information
Note that you can send money to prisons in different states through these vendors.
When you choose to fund an inmate account via EFT, expect the following:
- Service fees will be charged
- Funds will reflect on an inmate’s account within one to three days
- Friends and relatives can only deposit to a trust or restitution account
The Lockbox is a banking service that assists individuals in transferring money to inmates. You can send funds to a lockbox through money orders, approved vendor checks, and official business checks.
Mail Your Checks or Money Orders to the Institution
You can also transfer money to an inmate via check or money order. Just head to the nearest post office and send a money order or check.
On the envelope, write the intended Department of Corrections (DOC) facility, the inmate’s name, and the DOC ID number.
Note that the DOC number is assigned to an inmate for identification. This number is the primary means of identification for inmates under the Department of Corrections.
The Inmate Bank
The Inmate Trust Fund is an institution that oversees the creation and maintenance of inmate accounts in correctional facilities. Incarcerated individuals are not allowed to have cash with them once they’re booked.
Incarcerated individuals need a funded inmate account to have money for commissary purchases.
How Do You Deposit Money Into the Inmate Bank?
You can deposit money into the Inmate Trust Fund through the following methods.
You can visit a DOC cashier’s office and use their kiosk to deposit money. Note that some offices provide kiosks that accept cash or credit card to speed up the deposit process.
You can send money to an inmate through third-party vendors catering to these banking transactions. You can contact the following companies when you want to send money to an inmate:
Western Union: Reach them through their toll-free number (1-800-225-5227).
When you send money by phone, you’ll need to have the following information:
- The inmate’s full name
- The inmate’s account number
- The name of the correctional facility
- The amount to send
JPay: Contact them at 1-800-574-5729. You’ll need similar pertinent information about the inmate to make a transaction.
What It Costs
Trust fund deposit fees may vary in different state prisons. You can check with the correctional facility where your incarcerated loved one is located and review the policies and fees for trust fund deposits.
Ways to Pay
You can send your payments through options provided by the vendors that you’ve chosen. Payments can be made using credit cards, money orders, checks, and in-person cash transfers.
Reasons to Send Money
There are a few reasons why inmates need money inside prisons, including being able to purchase goods not included in articles provided by the correctional facility. These are the items that are available at an inmate store:
- Hygiene items
- Postage supplies
- Writing materials
- Health-related items
- Other personal items
Another reason is you need funds to send emails or make video and phone calls to inmates in prison. Friends and family are encouraged to remain in contact with their loved ones behind bars especially those who are being mistreated to improve their disposition and reduce recidivism.
A 2014 study showed that incarcerated women who had phone contact with their families tend to be less likely to return to prison within five years after their release, and individuals in jails and prisons may seek a suspended sentence based on their situation.
The third reason is restitution payment. The inmate may incur fines or penalties that require payment. A family member can send money to an inmate’s account to pay these penalties.
Message to Approved Vendors
Correctional facilities can work with third-party vendors in providing services. However, the buyer has to take the sole risk for any purchase made with third-party vendors. You can check with the inmate’s prison authorities for policies regarding purchases from approved vendors.
Moreover, funds sent to an inmate are still subject to restitution. However, restitution does not cover families that purchase items directly from the vendors.
Relevant Regulations and Policy
Here are relevant regulations and policies regarding fund transfers to inmates. Note that you should check your state policies regarding inmate transfers. However, the Bureau of Prisons prohibits explicitly mailing cash, personal checks, and additional items to an inmate.
- Funds enclosed in correspondence: Funds can’t be sent to an inmate through cash or traveler’s check, except the following:
- Money order
- Cashier’s check
- Certified check
- Personal check
- Other negotiable instruments
- Policy regarding inmate property: Inmates can only possess items approved by the correctional facility. The BOP listed items that inmates can possess while incarcerated, like the following:
- Legal materials
- Hobbycraft materials
- Radios and watches
- Education materials
- Religious items
- Personal photos
How Do You Withdraw Money From an Inmate’s Account?
Inmates can authorize a withdrawal from their accounts by filling out a property release request. The inmate should complete this request form and get it approved by a shift supervisor. Once approved, the inmate can only withdraw funds in the form of checks and not cash.
Inmates can have representatives walk in and authorize fund withdrawals in person. Shift supervisors will then regulate such meetings and only allow requests made during the approved transaction time. Requesting withdrawals during meal service or shift change is not allowed.
How Do Prisoners Use the Cash App?
Inmates are not allowed to use cash apps to receive funds from other people. The only legal way for an inmate to receive money is via authorized money transfer vendors or by sending money orders or checks through the mail to the inmate’s account.
Information About Filing Complaints About Money Transmission or Currency Exchange Product or Service
You can report or file a complaint through the channels provided by the correctional facility. You can also fill out online forms on the facilities’ websites. You can also contact the prison authorities in your area to resolve these complaints.
U.S. Customers: Fraud Protection
If you suspect fraud, it’s best to report it immediately to the authorities through the different channels provided by the BOP and DOJ. Inmates can be targets of identity fraud which can result in several problems.
When you think someone is using an inmate’s account, you can contact the correctional facility or the credit reporting agencies. You can request these authorities to freeze suspected inmate accounts due to fraud.
1. My card was charged, but the inmate didn’t receive the money. What do I do?
Suppose you suspect an unauthorized transaction has occurred. In that case, you can send a report or complaint to the bank or credit union and wait 10 business days for them to investigate. The bank or credit union sets 90 days to resolve an issue.
2. How can I verify if my transaction was completed?
You can verify if your transaction was completed by accessing the transaction history of the vendors you’ve used to send money. However, only inmates have access to their account balance.
3. If an inmate has been transferred to another facility, what happens to their money?
An inmate will need to request a transfer of funds from the previous prison to the new facility. The inmate can still use their funds if the new facility has Telmate services.
Suppose there is no Telmate service in the facility. In that case, you need to request a refund through the customer service of the money transfer vendor.
4. How do I reply to an inmate’s email or text message?
You can respond, but you should remember that communication with inmates is monitored. So, you’ll need to put that in mind when replying to text messages or emails from a loved one in prison.
5. Why is the inmate I’ve selected to deposit to unable to receive deposits?
An account can’t receive a deposit because it may have exceeded the allowed limit. Also, the county clerk may have frozen the account due to unpaid fees. You can contact them to resolve this issue.
6. The inmate ordered through the commissary and never received it. What should I do?
You can have your incarcerated loved one directly talk to prison facilities to dispute a commissary order they didn’t receive.
7. How do I get a refund for unused phone time?
Third-party phone call vendors handle the accounts for inmates’ phone time. You’ll need to check the policies of different vendors regarding refunds for unused phone credits.
8. I didn’t get a receipt for my deposit. Is that normal?
You can contact the different money transfer vendors about this issue so that they can send you the receipt for the deposit.
9. What is the inmate’s balance?
Only the inmate can see their inmate trust account balance. You can only know this balance if you ask the inmate through a scheduled call or in-person visit.
10. Why is my credit or debit card being declined?
You should report any credit/debit card transaction problem to the issuing bank for clarification. There are instances when the inmate’s account is frozen or the account balance exceeds the intended limit.
11. How does an inmate know I have scheduled a visit?
Inmates usually create a visiting list that the correctional facility approves. Visits are usually done on weekends and at specific hours. You can talk to an inmate and ask them when is the best time to visit, and you can agree on that schedule.
12. How much does an inmate phone call cost?
The Federal Communications Commission places a cap on base prices for phone calls. Payments can be made through Visa or Mastercard. Here are the rates:
- For interstate calls: $0.21 per minute
- For collect calls: $0.25 per minute
13. I forgot my username and password for video visitation. Can I still retrieve it?
You can contact your phone services vendor to retrieve the username and password for the account you use for video visitation.
14. Can I find out how an inmate is spending their money?
Family and friends cannot access an inmate’s trust fund account balance. Inmates can inform their families what things they’ve bought from the commissary.
15. How do I report a kiosk outage?
You can report the outage to the facility where the kiosk is located. However, if you’re depositing money at the time of the outage, you can contact the kiosk’s hotline.
16. Why won’t my photos attach to my email to an inmate?
Emails tend to have file size limits for pictures. You can reduce the size of images like the photo ID you want to attach.
17. How do I send an email to an inmate?
Inmates don’t have access to computers and the internet. The correctional facility monitors emails from family and friends before they are relayed to the inmate. The inmate can reply only through the post.
18. The system asks me for a PIN, and I don’t know my PIN. What should I do?
The PIN code for video visitation is typically included in the email verification. You can check your email to retrieve your pin.
- The Company Store: A Deeper Look at Prison Commissaries
- PRETRIAL ORIENTATION UNITED STATES PROBATION & PRETRIAL SERVICES FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
- Sending Money to Incarcerated People
- Inmate Banking Services
- Deposit money to an inmate’s personal account
- Send Money
- Commissary (Store)
- Stay in touch
- Inmate Personal Property
- Submitting a Complaint
- General Visiting Information
- Telephone Service for Incarcerated Individuals