Caring for an Inmate, Even If You Can’t Visit the Jail or Prison

Visits are a lifeline for most inmates, but if his jail is very far away, or there are other reasons that make it impossible for you to visit, there are other steps you can take to let him know he is not alone.

Lots of mail: Even if you can’t write a letter each day or once a week, it takes no time at all to drop something in the mail. Discount stores often have greeting cards priced very low. Pick up a handful of them and then mail them regularly. Interchange cards between funny and serious to give him a variety.

Related: Will the jail or prison workers read the letters I send?

Calls: Setting up a phone account and accepting calls from the inmate reminds him that you care. Decide ahead of time how many calls you can afford each week and let the inmate know what to expect. If a call comes outside of those days, take it in case it is an emergency. If it isn’t, remind the inmate of your budget and ask him to respect your agreement.

Packages:  Many inmates read while in jail to pass the time. Contact the jail and ask how to send books. Typically, they must come straight from the publisher or an online store such as or Barnes and Noble online. Send a book every week, or month or whatever your budget allows. For fun, get another copy from your public library and read it with him to discuss during the calls.

Related: Newark man tried to mail pot to inmate

Card club: If you have a large family, or group of understanding friends, start a card club. Ask everyone to drop a greeting card or letter in the mail once a month or every few months to the inmate so he knows he is being thought of.

Final thoughts:  Taking the extra time to keep in touch helps your inmate remain calm and positive while doing his time.

Video: The prison mail department



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.