Consequences of Providing Contraband to an Inmate

It is never a good idea to mail contraband to an inmate or to bring it on a visit. The consequences for such actions are serious not only for the inmate, but also for you.

What is Contraband?

Contraband is anything that inmates are not allowed to have in their possession. Obvious examples are weapons, drugs or alcohol. Less obvious examples include tobacco, unauthorized clothing, cell phones and cash.

Is it a Criminal Offense?

In some states, bringing or mailing contraband to a jail or prison is a criminal offense for which you can be incarcerated. Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the individual state law.

Video: New rules target contraband

Who gets the Charge?

In most cases, both you and the inmate will be charged. If you’re found guilty, you could be sent to jail/prison, placed on probation, or given a large fine to pay. Your inmate’s sentence will most likely be extended for a longer period of time, and he or she could be moved to another facility to complete the sentence. Both of you will have a contraband conviction listed on your permanent criminal records.

Related: Prison awash in contraband, weapons and filth

What If it’s Not a Crime?

Even if state law does not make the introduction of contraband a criminal offense, there are still serious consequences. In most cases you will be banned from ever visiting an inmate anywhere in the state, even if it is years into the future.

Many jails/prisons move the inmate to another facility, typically further away from home. This inconveniences the entire family, who will still be allowed to visit. It is also stressful for the inmate to start over in a new place with different inmates.

Staff might remove the inmate’s privileges. This can include phone calls, commissary or visitation. Segregation from general population might also occur.

In the end: It is not worth being banned from visitation for life, nor is it worth going to jail over. If an inmate asks this of you, make it immediately clear that you will not do it and if you are asked again, you will stop all contact.



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.