Can I Send a Box of Things to an Inmate?

There are still a few county jails in rural areas that allow inmates to receive packages through the mail system from people on the outside, but the vast majority restrict this activity. If your loved one is in a county jail or state prison, you won’t be able to send a package directly from your home. A few county jails and almost all state prisons allow inmates to receive packages from prison-approved shipping companies. Each jail and state prison has rules about what’s allowable. Most prisons have the following rules in common.

Quarterly Shipping: A majority of American prisons allow an inmate to receive an approved package every three months (though a few restrict packages to twice per year). This allows for holiday gifts and seasonal items, such as clothing, to be received.

Minimum/Maximum: While you have some choices about the contents of each package, there is a minimum and maximum amount of money that can be spent on each package. The minimum restrictions are applied to make the process more cost-effective for the facilities handling the packages. The maximum restrictions are applied to prevent problems related to illegal prison activities organized around valuable merchandise in the boxes.

Types of products: The items available for you to choose from often vary seasonally. For example, for winter packages, you might be able to select from long-sleeved shirts, winter coats and boots. There are usually several choices year-round such as prison-approved televisions or radios, novels, magazine subscriptions, crossword puzzles and other paper items.

Call the jail or prison for information about whether quarterly packages are allowed and obtain the name of their approved suppliers. Be sure to ask if there is a limit on how many quarterly packages an inmate is allowed to receive. Typically it is one per quarter, though sometimes they allow two. This is important to know so you and other family members and friends can coordinate who sends the package each time.

Be sure to check the approved company website for your inmate’s name to be sure he or she is eligible to receive a package. If someone has already sent them a package, or if your inmate is in solitary confinement or is otherwise being disciplined, your package will not get to that inmate. Check first then proceed with your shopping.

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writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.