Communicating With Your Family in Prison

If you’ve been sentenced to prison, you may be worried about how you’ll stay in touch with your loved ones. While not everyone is eager to talk to family and friends while serving their sentence, some people find that regular contact with the outside world makes their time in prison more bearable.

Communication from within a correctional facility isn’t always easy. If you want to stay in touch with your loved ones, it helps to understand what your options will be before your sentence begins. Here’s what you need to know about the communication methods that may and may not be available to you during your sentence. 

Restrictions on Communication in Prison 

While in prison, you will have significant restrictions on how you can communicate with the outside world. Most states actively prohibit inmates from using the Internet outside specific programs designed for supervised communication. You will not be able to use standard messaging tools like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or your regular email address. 

Furthermore, inmates are barred from keeping cell phones in most cases. You will be restricted to the communication methods provided by your facility. 

The specific methods available will vary depending on whether you’re in a federal or state facility and what level of security your facility is. Some of the most common ways permitted by these institutions include:

Mailing Letters

Letters are the most commonly available method of communication for inmates across all facilities. In almost all cases, you will be able to send mail to your friends and family, and they will be able to write you letters in return. 

You may need to buy stationery and stamps from the commissary to send a letter. You will need to know the address of the person you’re sending the letter to. You may also need to follow restrictions on topics you can discuss in your letter. Some facilities will read your letter before you send it to ensure you’re not discussing inappropriate content in a process known as mail monitoring or mail cover.

Your loved ones can send you mail the same way. They will need to follow the rules for your specific facility to ensure you receive the letter. For example, many federal and state facilities do not permit stickers, decorations, or perfume on letters. Your mail may also be inspected to ensure it does not include contraband. 

Sending Emails

Federal and state facilities have recently begun making email available to prisoners under extremely limited circumstances. The Federal Bureau of Prisons uses the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS), while state facilities may use JPay and similar programs. These systems allow you to send emails to people outside of prison for a fee.

If your facility offers TRULINCS or JPay, you will be able to send messages to other people with a few caveats:

  • Each email will cost money
  • The message will face character limits that depend on the program
  • Your message mayl be reviewed before it is approved to be sent
  • You cannot send or receive images or attachments in these emails
  • You won’t be permitted to email other inmates

Some people find that this system is more restrictive than sending letters, while others prefer it for its greater speed.

Making Phone Calls

Phone calls are an excellent way to talk to people in real-time. Talking to your loved ones can provide comfort and a way to stay included in your friends and families’ lives. You will likely be able to receive or make multiple phone calls per month, depending on your facility’s rules. These calls may include time limits, and your commissary account will likely be charged for each minute you’re on the phone. 

These calls aren’t free from oversight. They are recorded for review by prison staff and may be reviewed by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. Facility phones also include recorded messages that play at set intervals, reminding the other person that you’re calling from prison. This can be annoying or disconcerting, but some inmates still find the ability to talk in real-time worth it. 

Making Video Calls

Recently, video calls have become a possibility in some facilities. Since COVID-19, more state and federal prisons now offer video calls as a substitute for in-person visitation. However, these options are so new that they aren’t standardized across all locations. You can check your facility’s website to see whether video calls are offered and the rules for their use. 

Prepare for Your Sentence With Expert Help

Communicating with your friends and family can make your prison sentence less overwhelming. At Liberty Advisors, we’re ready to teach you what to expect from the communication methods available during your sentence. Get in touch today to schedule your consultation and learn more about staying in touch with loved ones while in prison.


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