Putting Money on Inmates’ Books

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Since prison food is known for its low quality, life is much better for inmates who can afford to buy food and other essential items from the commissary or prison store.

Inmates are subject to restrictions, so they look forward to commissary day, which happens once every two weeks. But this does not mean that prisoners are being maltreated. This day is when prisoners with good behavior, such as those who have appealed and been granted a suspended sentence, can use their inmate trust funds to purchase additional supplies from the commissary.

So how exactly do you put money into an inmate’s book? What sort of items can inmates purchase through the commissary? Can a prisoner’s family and friends send reading materials from Amazon?

This article discusses how to put money into an inmate’s book and covers the available deposit options. It explains the sort of items inmates can purchase through the commissary.

The write-up also discusses how to send books and magazines to inmates and whether family and friends of prisoners can mail reading materials from Amazon. It also lists some examples of prohibited book content or publications in prison.

LookUpInmate.org lets you access crucial information regarding inmates and correctional facilities across the United States. This website also provides ideas for civilians who are considering volunteering or applying for jobs in correctional facilities, aiming to inspire inmates to make positive changes in their lives.

Read and find out how you can put money into an inmate’s book, so they can buy the essential items they need.

How Do You Put Money on Prisoners’ Books?

Let’s say your incarcerated loved one asks you to put money into their book. You can go to a kiosk in a visitation lobby and use cash or a credit card to deposit money into your loved one’s commissary account.

You can also call Smart Deposit at 866-394-0490 or visit the Smart Deposit website to put money in a prisoner’s book.

Remember that corrections staff can’t take money orders or cash over the counter for a prisoner.


Incarcerated individuals can’t physically possess money. Hence, an inmate’s trust account must have funds so prisoners can buy the things they need and want from the commissary.

Gifts from family and friends and jobs inside prison are the usual sources of inmate funds. Aside from buying items from the commissary, prisoners can also use those funds to send inmate money home.

Meanwhile, monies from the outside will cover fees, court surcharges, and other encumbrances. Until these obligations are satisfied, funds may not be available for commissary and other items unless these funds are from the inmate’s incentive wage.


JPay accepts all money orders. Funds will be automatically deposited into the inmate’s account every business day.

You need to fill out a deposit slip and submit it with every money order. Clearly and correctly type in the inmate’s name, ID number, and sender’s name and address. Note that handwritten forms are subject to delay.

JPay will hold funds if it can’t determine the owner of the money order until the company can verify who it is. Make sure not to include personal items when sending money orders.

Fees for Money Transfers

Expect to pay fees when a transfer agent handles your transaction. The handling cost also varies depending on the transfer agent.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to pay fees when you deposit money directly at a Department of Corrections (DOC) cashier’s window.

Information Required

Provide the inmate’s first and last name, including their book and case number, when you use the service of a money transfer agent. The same process applies to inmates who have hold orders from the court.

Inmate Account Restrictions

Whether you are using single or multiple credit cards, you can only add $300 per card every 72 hours to an inmate’s account. However, the limit is $999.99 for every money order if you use this payment method.

You can also send multiple money orders at a time. When you use MoneyGram for cash or walk-in transactions, the maximum limit is $5,000 per transaction.

Suppose an inmate has been left money in a will. The executor or estate must distribute the fund, which needs to be on a bank check made payable to the prisoner. Personal checks aren’t accepted.

The executor must reference the inmate’s ID number and mail the check to the institution where the prisoner is housed.

SCI Lobby Kiosks

All SCI (state correctional institutions) had kiosks installed on October 4, 2016, for individuals to add money to an inmate’s account. The kiosks accept cash and credit and debit cards.

DOC has partnered with GTL (Global Tel Link), a kiosk services company, and JPay, an inmate account services firm, to work together to process transactions.

There’s a $2 fee per transaction for using the lobby kiosk. If you use a credit card, the $2 fee will reflect on the amount charged to your card.

Visit Day Fund Deposits

You can leave money orders, checks, and cash in the conventional visitor deposit lockbox at each DOCCS (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) facility.

In the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there’s no fee when you leave a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order in a lockbox.

You can also mail your money order or check to the institution or send funds through one of the facility’s EFT (electronic fund transfer) vendors:

  • JPay
  • GTL or ConnectNetwork.com
  • Access Corrections Information

Other Deposit Options

JPay offers five other ways to deposit funds:


You can have your check or money order deposit sent to the JPay lockbox using a JPay deposit slip.

Log In

Log into your JPay account to deposit funds using your debit or credit card.


Make cash deposits at MoneyGram Locations.

Mobile App 

Download the free JPay app from App Store and Google Play and deposit money to your loved one’s account anytime.

Via Phone 

Use your credit card to deposit money into an inmate’s account by calling 1-800-574-5729.

Inmate Account Deposits

Aside from JPay, you may also use the services of Access Corrections and Secure Deposits to send money to inmates in the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

You can use the Access Corrections app on a smart device and deposit funds to a prisoner using your debit or credit card 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also transfer money by phone, mail, in-person, or online.

Let’s say your incarcerated loved one is detained in a Burling County, New Jersey, facility. Here are ways to send money to their account:

Money Orders and Cash

They may receive account deposits 24 hours a day by mail. When you visit your loved one, you can deposit the money in a kiosk in the administration lobby on the first floor.

Money Deposits

You can use a debit card, MasterCard, or Visa when you deposit money into an inmate’s account. You can also send money through Access Corrections or contact 1-866-345-1884.

Inmate Commissary

You can also place orders via Access Securepak or call 1-800-546-6283. The phone number allows you to check the status of your order anytime.

Custody Commissary System

The DOC (Department of Corrections) may operate a commissary or prison store to benefit incarcerated individuals. Inmates can buy items like shampoos, envelopes, stamps, and candies through the commissary system.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, a prisoner’s custody level determines the items they can purchase from the DOC’s commissary system.

Custody level refers to the degree of correctional staff control and supervision necessary to monitor prisoners’ behavior. Custody levels range from level 1 (community corrections) to level 5 (maximum security prison).

The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons regulates inmate custody classification and security designation.

Send Money

While your incarcerated loved one is in custody, they must use their inmate accounts for all transactions. Prisoners can’t possess cash, which is regarded as contraband.

You’re subject to arrest once you give cash to an inmate. To financially support your incarcerated loved one, you should deposit money into their DOC account.

Visit a DOC cashier’s office and look for participating money transfer agents, similar to how you wire money to someone. Use cash or a credit or debit card to pay.

JPay and Western Union offer internet, phone, and walk-in transfers at kiosks. However, JPay’s kiosks only accept cash. Call the providers’ toll-free phone numbers to find a walk-in office.

  • JPay, 1-800-574-JPAY
  • Western Union, 1-800-325-6000

Contact Information for Money Transfer Agents

Here is the contact information of the money transfer agents:

  1. JPay, 1-800-574-5729
  2. Western Union, 1-800-325-6000
  3. Access Corrections, 1-866-345-1884
  4. GTL or ConnectNetwork, 1-877-650-4249

What Sort of Items Can Be Purchased Through the Commissary?

Generally, commissaries sell various items, including haircare products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, clothing, snacks, candies, stamps, pens, cards, papers, and other valuable supplies.

Once the money you deposited has been credited to your incarcerated loved one’s account, they can use that fund to purchase goods at their facility’s commissary.

Monthly Fees and Criminal Fines

Trial courts, during proceedings, usually levy fees and fines upon individuals convicted of criminal offenses.

How Are Fines and Fees Collected?

1. Counties and Courts Involved in the Collection Process

Although counties are statutorily responsible for collecting fines and fee payments, some collection duties are delegated to the courts. Hence, both courts and counties may operate collection programs.

In one Washington county, offenders must make monthly payments every Thursday at noon or appear in court that afternoon.

2. Various Collection Tools Employed 

Individuals who don’t contest a violation, plead guilty, or are convicted of a criminal offense must pay the fines in full immediately. They may also set up installment payments with the collection programs.

Collection programs utilize different tools, such as payment kiosks or monthly billing slips, to help offenders make timely payments.

3. Different Sanctions Available

Suppose an offender doesn’t pay on time. The amount they owe becomes delinquent. Under state law, collection programs can use sanctions against a person who fails to appear in court without reasonable cause or pay the amount owed 20 days following delinquency notification.

Collection programs vary in when and how these sanctions are used. However, these programs progressively add sanctions to gradually increase the pressure on offenders to make their payments.

Two common sanctions include wage garnishments, bank levies, and a civil assessment of up to $300 for failing to appear in court without reasonable cause or the payment of dues.

4. Amount Outstanding 

From the end of 2019 to 2020, the judicial branch reported an outstanding amount of $8.6 billion in fines and fees.

Sending Mail to Inmates in the U.S.

DOC established procedures when sending mail to inmates. There may be limits on the length, volume, content, or source of the mailpiece to maintain security and safety.

Here are the requirements for sending mail to inmates:

  • The prisoner’s full name
  • Six-digit DOC number
  • Correct facility address
  • The name of the unit where the prisoner lives (not required for delivery)
  • Correct mail content recipient (the sender should address the envelope’s content to the inmate on the envelope)
  • A return address, including an identifiable last name

How to Send Books and Magazines to U.S. Inmates

Reading books can be a profoundly absorbing experience. Fictional stories, in particular, may help individuals develop empathy. So it’s unfortunate that some prisons across the U.S. ban books from entering their facilities, saying that particular reading materials may contain contraband.

Several states also prevent family members and friends from mailing books to incarcerated loved ones. So if you want to send books to an inmate, these publications only have to come from approved vendors, such as the following:

Most prisons only accept USPS (United States Postal Service) parcels. Let’s say you placed orders to the Department of Corrections through Barnes and Noble and need to ship your order via USPS.

Make sure to tick “Address can’t be serviced by UPS” while adding the correctional facility as a shipping address during the checkout process.

Based on the POM (Postal Operations Manual), USPS mailpieces should be delivered to the institution authorities, who will forward the mail to the addressee under the facility’s rules and regulations.

Let’s say the addressee is no longer in the facility. The institution authorities must redirect the mail to the addressee’s current address. Suppose the forwarding address is unknown. The authorities must return the mail to the post office.

It’s also worth noting that the facility’s warden may reject your package if the publication’s content includes the following:

  • Methods of escape from correctional facilities, including drawings and blueprints of BOP institutions
  • Procedures for creating weapons, bombs, ammunition, or incendiary devices
  • Information written in code
  • Instructions about committing a criminal activity
  • Activities leading to the use of group disruption or physical violence
  • Instructions on how to brew an alcoholic beverage or manufacture drugs
  • Sexually explicit materials that may pose a threat to the security and good order of the facility

U.S. Inmate Phone Calls

The Federal Bureau of Prisons extends telephone privileges to incarcerated individuals to help them maintain relationships with their families and other community contacts.

The inmates usually pay for the calls. However, there are some instances when the receiving party pays. Restrictions and limitations may also apply to prisoners’ telephone privileges to ensure that phone policies are consistent with the correctional management’s responsibilities.

Can You Send Books From Amazon to Inmates?

Suppose your incarcerated loved one is in medium- and high-security prisons or administrative institutions. They may receive softcover publications only from the publisher, bookstore, or book club.

You can send books from Amazon. The company also delivers to prisons, but it recommends contacting the correctional facility first to know the latter’s policies regarding accepting deliveries.

Meanwhile, prisoners at minimum-security prisons and low-security institutions may receive softcover publications, other than newspapers, from any source.


  2. Commissary (Store)
  3. Inmate Commissary
  4. Commissary Lists
  5. Commonly Used Terms in Prisons
  6. Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification
  7. Send Money
  8. Account Deposits
  9. Guidelines
  10. Send Money
  11. How to Send Money
  12. Sending Money to Incarcerated People
  13. Deposit money to an inmate’s personal account
  14. Inmate Money/Commissary
  15. Call or Write Us
  16. Contact Western Union United States
  17. Friends & Family Contact Us
  18. Contact Us
  20. Overview of Criminal Fine and Fee System
  21. Send Mail
  22. The Relationship Between Empathy and Reading Fiction: Separate Roles for Cognitive and Affective Components
  23. The Cruel Practice of Banning Books Behind Bars
  24. Books & Publications – Sending Books and/or Publications to a Prisoner
  25. Placing Orders to Correctional Facilities
  26. Customer Support Ruling
  27. Incoming Publications
  28. Stay in touch
  29. Shipping to Prisons

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