Receiving Calls From a Correctional Facility

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If you have a family member or friend in prison, chances are you already know the challenges of retaining contact between those inside and outside a correctional facility.

For example, inflated costs of telephone services have prevented many inmates from communicating with loved ones.

Are you expecting a call from a loved one or a friend in a corrections facility? If so, you must familiarize yourself with how the prison phone system works, including private phone companies’ different processes for inmate calls. offers you vital information regarding receiving calls from jail or prison and a tool to search for an inmate. Our website contains all this critical information, including links to relevant websites.

How to Receive a Phone Call From an Inmate

Inmates usually submit a list of phone numbers shortly after admission to jail or prison. If your number is on that approved telephone list, you can receive phone calls from an inmate.

Attaching your number in a letter to a family member or friend in jail or prison is a great idea. Some states have specific websites (usually run by a state’s department of corrections) where you can register your phone number.

Unfortunately, getting on the approved list does not guarantee that you will receive a call. Here are some reasons you are not hearing from your loved one in prison:

  • Generally, cell phones cannot receive collect calls. You might not get any calls because the inmate wrote your cell phone number on the list instead of your telephone number.
  • Telephone service providers have blocked collect calls for your number. If you have experienced this difficulty, contact your phone company’s support to confirm whether your number can receive collect calls.

You might sometimes receive a call from the facility that will get dropped while you are in the middle of the conversation. 

If you encounter this incident, you likely have activated your phone’s call-waiting feature or attempted to make a three-way call. 

Step-by-Step Guide

Here are four steps to take to receive a call from an inmate.

1. Be included on the inmate’s contact list.

The first thing that inmates must ensure so you can receive their calls is to have your number on the facility’s approved contact list.

2. Apply to have your phone number approved to take calls.

You can apply directly through the facility’s preferred service provider’s website or print out the application and mail it to the facility. 

Applying online might be more convenient and secure since it is common for a jail or prison mailroom staff to lose your application.

3. Wait for approval. Once approved, set up an account with the facility’s telephone provider.

Usually, the telephone service provider’s site can give you an estimate as to when your account will be ready. 

Suppose the estimated timeframe has passed, and you have yet to receive a call from an inmate. In that case, you can contact the telephone service provider and request an update regarding the status of your application.

While you wait for the approval, you can start comparing the provider’s rates. Knowing their prices can help determine whether you can afford to call your loved one often.

Prices may vary depending on the provider’s agreement with the facility. Securus, Global Tel Link (GTL), and IC Solutions are the primary telephone service providers for corrections facilities in the U.S.

4. Accept the inmate’s first call.

When you first hear from the inmate, it is usually from a phone number you do not recognize. 

Upon answering the call, you might hear an automated voice informing you that an inmate wants to connect with you from a specific facility.

You can then push the designated button to accept the call and talk for several minutes. Remember that the call will be monitored and recorded.

When Will the Inmate Be Allowed to Call?

The inmate phone call schedule varies depending on where they serve their sentences

While facilities might differ regarding the specifics of the admission process for inmates, they generally have similar procedures.

The staff will facilitate inmates’ intake and classification. This process typically involves a medical, physical, and psychological evaluation to determine where the inmate will stay.

Moreover, depending on the facility’s regulations or situation, the process can end anytime —  from a day to several weeks. 

During the intake, inmates are usually not allowed to meet with visitors personally, but you can call or mail them.

Remember that each facility has an official schedule for when inmates can make calls. For instance, some jails or prisons prohibit inmates from making calls until the facility’s morning routine ends.

If problems arise in the facility or your inmate’s dorm, you can expect a delay in access to the phone system. 

Telephone Calls With Prisoners

States partner with various prison telecommunications companies to facilitate communication via inmate calling accounts.

Inmates’ PANs (personal allowed numbers) often reset several times a year, allowing inmates to update their calling lists. 

Inmates can make telephone calls using the following options:

  • Collect: Inmates can call approved numbers, and the call charges will be added to the called party’s monthly phone bill.  

Collect calls are generally inaccessible to cell phones, hospital phones, office phones, or other commercial phone numbers.

Some local phone providers set a maximum dollar amount for collecting calls. You must contact your local provider to get an estimate.

  • Prepaid Collect: Some telephone providers allow clients to have a prepaid calling account. For instance, with GTL, you can access AdvancePay. This service allows your loved ones to register a calling account to their phone numbers.

A specific amount will be taken from the called party’s account when a prisoner calls any of those numbers. If you plan to access GTL’s AdvancePay, visit or call 855-466-2832.

  • Debit: Debit calls give prisoners control over their phone accounts. They can buy debit minutes through the institutional disbursement system. They can use these minutes to call friends and family members. 

Reducing Bills for Inmate Calls

You can reduce the cost of calling someone in jail or prison by reducing your phone time and calling less frequently.

It is crucial to know that making an extended phone call every week is cheaper than making several short calls daily. Private phone companies may charge connection fees for inmate calls.

Moreover, you can save money by finding the local number for the institution. 

Long-distance calls made via phone providers can increase the cost of inmate calls. If you can set up a local number, you can lower your phone bill significantly.

How to Call an Inmate for the First Time: Setting Up a Telephone Account

While you can have a phone conversation with an inmate, you can only receive their outgoing calls.

While waiting for outgoing calls, set up a telephone account so you can communicate with your loved one in prison. 

Usually, you only have to follow the on-screen instructions for registration on the facility’s partner telephone service provider.

For GTL clients, you can visit

Intake and Classification

A proper intake and classification process is necessary to safeguard a facility and guarantee compliance with legal requirements and respect for individual rights.

Correctional staff assign inmates to housing units after the intake and classification process. Housing units have different levels of custody or surveillance based on the jail or prison staff’s judgment.

The screening procedure may also result in the inmate’s permanent assignment to a specific location. 

It can also decide the rehabilitation treatment the staff should provide based on what the panel believes is the underlying cause of the inmate’s crime.

Things That Affect an Inmate’s Ability to Make Phone Calls

Inmates may not call for the following reasons:

  • An inmate who failed to complete the intake process may be unable to use the phone system.
  • The correctional facility is on lockdown, preventing inmates from accessing phone services.
  • The inmate’s account has insufficient funds. (Some state prisons and county jails still permit collect calls.)
  • Some correctional facilities restrict inmates’ contacts, allowing only approved family members or those listed as official visitors.
  • Severe conditions, such as poor weather and power cuts, can affect incoming calls.
  • The incarcerated person does not have the phone number of their loved ones stored in their phone account.

How the Calls Work

Each jail or prison has a set time for inmates to call, sometime between 8 AM and 11 PM, but it may differ based on the facility’s daily routine.  

Inmates can usually begin making outgoing calls only after the morning roundup. If there are problems, you can expect the facility to take time to allow phone access.

 The following are companies that offer phone services to inmates:

  • Securus
  • IC Solutions
  • Global Tel Link

Becoming Eligible to Receive Calls

Inmates can only call a phone number listed on their official phone list. This list may contain up to 30 phone numbers. 

The associate warden may allow the addition of phone numbers to an inmate’s phone list based on their situation, such as family size.

After completing the intake process, inmates can submit a list of contact numbers. You are probably not on their official list if you do not receive any call from your loved one in prison.

However, the inmate can still list your phone number later. One way for the inmate to remember your phone number is for you to include it in a letter.

Inmate Calling Scam: The Prison Scam

Suppose you receive a call with a low-quality recording saying that you must press a particular number to accept a collect call from prison. In that case, the phone call is likely a prison inmate phone scam.

Another inmate call-related scam happens when a victim accepts a collect call from an inmate and then follows the inmate’s instructions to make another call on their behalf by dialing a sequence of numbers that include *-7-2. 

 This sequence starts a call-forwarding service, transferring control of the victim’s phone line to the inmate.

 You should contact the company listed on your bill to dispute a charge for collect calls from jail or long-distance calls.

Scammers From Behind Bars

Inmates often run fraudulent activities, including fake inmate calls, in lower-security facilities with in-house pay phones.

They can scam people while serving time behind bars by pretending to contact their family members or bribing officers.

Jailhouse Jingle Prison Scam: What You Should Know

The “jailhouse jingle” prison scam, which has been targeting landlines for years, is now targeting cell phones. 

Inmates dial numbers, hoping someone will accept a collect call. If someone does, the caller hangs up and bills long-distance prison calls to that phone number. 

Here’s how this phone scam works:

The caller is an inmate from a local prison attempting to call someone else at your expense. This scam is also known as custom forward calling and connects your number with the number they tell you to dial. 

If you fall victim to this scam, the inmate might make future collect calls on your account.

Modern Phone Scams

Many modern phone-based frauds are easily recognizable if you understand how they work. For example, the “one-ring phone scam” is popular among scammers known as “crammers.” 

Crammers get people to contact numbers with incredibly high fees that force them to dial multiple phone numbers, ring once, and immediately hang up. 

If you return this call, you might be transferred to a high-priced chat, “adult entertainment” line, or another pricey international call service.

Calls at Your Expense

As indicated above, phone call scams, mainly custom forward calling, link your number to the number the scammer requests you to dial.

If you fall for their trick, you would be connected to a high-cost premium line, like the victims of the one-ring phone scam, or the scammers would be able to place other collect calls or overseas calls and charge them to your account.

The *72 Prison Scam

Here’s how *72 prison scam or call forwarding works:

You receive a telephone call stating that an inmate from a correctional facility wants you to accept a collect call and pay the resulting charges. 

Upon accepting the call, the caller tells you to end the line, dial *72, and another phone number. 

The * 72 sequence is the code to route incoming calls to a different number if you have a call forwarding service or your local exchange offers it. 

The inmate can then make further collect calls on your account, but this time, the calls will be forwarded to someone they want to contact.

Separating Fake Calls From the Real Ones

Obviously, it is easy to avoid prison-call scams if you do not have an incarcerated friend or relative. If you have an imprisoned loved one, separating the actual collect calls from fake ones might be more challenging.

However, while it is difficult to distinguish between genuine and fake collect calls, you can confirm with your loved one’s facility what telephone service provider they use.

Corrections facilities usually limit the platforms they use and the processes they follow.


  1. Why is my phone not accepting jail calls?

One primary reason your phone does not accept calls from jail is that your local service provider has restricted collect calls.

You can remove this restriction by calling your local telephone company.

  1. Why are you getting calls from a correctional facility?

Suppose you receive a phone call with a muffled recording instructing you to press a particular number to accept a collect call from the facility. In that case, you are probably targeted by a fake inmate phone scam.

Note also that the phones are unavailable to all inmates if there is a lockdown.  

  1. What does the operator say when an inmate calls you?

You may hear a recorded message in the following format if an inmate wants to call you:

“Hello, this is a prepaid call from [name of inmate], an inmate at [name of facility]. To accept the call, press [number]. To refuse, press [number].”

  1. Can you accept collect calls on a cell phone?

 No, most cell phones cannot receive calls from an inmate. 
Incoming calls to incarcerated individuals are prohibited – they can only make outgoing calls. Also, the inmate has to add your number to an approved call list.


  1. IN DOC Inmate Telephone Service
  2. Intake and Classification Procedures
  3. CFR § 540.101 – Procedures

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