If you're contending with a loved one's incarceration, you're far from alone. In fact, about half of Americans have family members who have at some point been inmates.
The inmate correspondence system can be a saving grace for these families, but it also is complicated. Here, we're going to talk about whether you can call an inmate and how you can take incoming calls from your loved one.
Can You Call an Inmate in Jail?
Unfortunately, no one outside the jail facility can call an inmate in jail. Phone use is solely for outgoing calls. This means that your loved one can call you during their designated phone hours, but you cannot call them back if you miss their call.
Some people try to call the jail and ask the staff to take a message to the inmate. However, this is not a good idea. The message will never be relayed, and you probably will just annoy the operator that you speak to.
In some facilities, you can call a warden and ask to talk to an inmate in the event of an immediate emergency. Qualifying emergencies would be a parent facing sudden and imminent death or the inmate's house burning down. Do not attempt to make contact if there is no true emergency as you may be denied later if there truly is one.
If you want to initiate contact with an inmate, you can write and send a letter to their jail. Those being held can receive incoming letters and can send correspondence back. In these letters, you can ask them to call you next time they have the chance.
Wait for Them to Call
Communicating with an incarcerated loved one requires patience. This is because inmates can only place calls at select times. Generally, the hours of correspondence range from 8 AM to 11 PM, so you'll need to have the phone with you during these hours.
Some facilities also have rules about how much time an inmate can spend on the phone. For example, some facilities only let inmates spend 300 minutes each month on the phone. If that elapses, you will not be able to take calls until the minutes reset.
Calls also may be of limited duration, but this also depends on the jail. Some facilities let inmates talk as much as they want while others limit calls to 15-30 minutes.
Note that inmates also cannot take calls until they have completed the jail's intake process. This could be a day or two after arriving at the facility. Don't expect a loved one to call you immediately upon their arrival.
What Impacts an Inmate's Ability to Make Phone Calls?
In some facilities, inmates can place calls to anyone on the outside. However, in many locations inmates can only call those on an approved telephone list.
This list is created at the beginning of their sentence. The inmate must have all the numbers on the list memorized since they won't be able to access contacts from their old phone.
However, there is good news! Inmates can add approved phone numbers to this list at any time.
If they did not have your number memorized, you can mail it to them via the postal service. They can then add it to their list by communicating with jail officials. This also is essential in the case of offenders with longer sentences since you may change your phone number at some point.
In some states, this phone number registration process is even easier. Texas, for example, has a website where inmates' loved ones can register their numbers on their own. This will let the inmate place calls to you.
There are also other restrictions that inmates may run into when placing calls. If someone has been written up for violating the jail's rules, they will likely have restricted telephone access.
If there is a lockdown following any event at the jail, all prisoners will likely be unable to place calls until the issue is resolved. This is also true in the case of power outages and natural disasters. It's important that you remember that your loved one is on the jail's schedule so that you don't panic if you don't hear from them for a while.
How Do Calls Work?
A jail telephone system works similarly to a pay phone. In some jails, inmates may have limited funds that they can use to place calls. However, this is not true at every facility.
The usual method of calling from jail is to place a call on collect. This means that the person receiving the incoming call from the inmate is billed. You will therefore need to pay a couple of dollars to talk with your loved one, which is well worth it in most cases.
If you think that an inmate will call you regularly, you can also make them a pre-paid account through a third-party provider. IC Solutions and Securus are two of the most common vendors that provide phone services to those in jail.
Note that cell phones and other mobile devices cannot receive collect calls. You will need a landline in order to communicate with them.
Find Your Loved One Today
While having a family member or friend in prison can be a challenge, it's possible to continue nurturing those connections. Now that you know that you can't call an inmate but can wait for one to call you, it's time to get started.
JailExchange is committed to helping people find incarcerated loved ones, correspond with them via snail mail, and discuss future phone calls. Contact us with any remaining questions you have and to get the mailing address of your loved one in jail.