Sending Money to an Incarcerated Loved One A Guide for Inmate Support

Updated on 7/6/2023

If your loved one or friend is incarcerated, they are still dear to you and you would want them to have the best of all that is available to them even if limited. However, to make use of what is available in the commissary, your loved one or friend would need money and you may be wondering how to send money to a prisoner

It really is not difficult. Read on to find out how you could do it.

Let us first establish what a commissary is. It is a store in the correctional home which sells various products that the inmates can buy with their funds. You can not only buy clothing, shoes, snacks and food, but also hygienic products like soap, shampoo, and shavers and other personal use. You can also get books, magazines, televisions, radios, cards for entertainment.

Though not mentioned so far but probably the most important thing for an inmate that a commissary sells is paper, envelopes, and stamps. These are very important for an inmate because it allows them to connect with those outside. Some facilities may provide some paper and stamps to their inmates who do not have money but not all prisons will do so.

If your loved one happens to be one of those that do not do so then it is important to transfer money to a prisoner   to enable them to keep in touch. The money is transferred to an inmate’s commissary account which is like a bank account.   To be able to send the money, you must locate the inmate. There are several sites which will help you with a nationwide inmate search   and find someone in jail. You can search by the inmate ID number if you know it or by the first and last name. Other details that you may want to see will be available at the website.

Once you have located your inmate, even if he is in a county jail you can still send money to inmate in county jail . The inmate can also get money into their commissary by working within the institution or if he has some trust fund or inheritance. However getting money from a friend or family member is something special.

When you are planning to send money to an inmate don’t forget that you keep track of how much money he or she may actually need. If they don’t have enough money then they may have to do without some essentials and if you send too much, they may be a target for others.

There are various ways to send your loved ones money. You can even add money to inmate phone account depending on where they are because federal, state and local institutions have different regulations. The restrictions could be about who is allowed to make the deposits, so you must make sure that you are qualified to do so.

You must either contact or look up guidelines for the institutions to make sure that you are following the correct procedures.

If you want to send money electronically, you can send using any of the money transfer services available to you. This ensures prompt payment to the commissary account, provided you have given the correct information. You can access these services via an agent also. Besides this you can use the postal services also, that is you may send only a money order which should include the inmate’s full name and register number.

 While for some facilities you can send money with a cheque in others you cannot. So places will also allow a debit or credit card transaction. It really depends on where you are located and also the place where your inmate’s facility is located. Explore the various options and choose the one most suitable for you. You may also want to want to look into the cheapest but reliable method.

The basics are the same. You first have to locate your inmate, then select whether you want to make a commissary payment or a phone payment and then authorize the payment method. You may make an online payment and if it is going to be on a regular basis you can activate a recurring payment option. You can also send money over the phone. You need to check on the number you will need to dial for doing so. Money transfer services have several locations nationwide and you can check if this is suitable.

If you deposit the money into the “Inmate Account” then they can freely spend the money on phone calls or other communication methods available in their facility. On the other hand in a “Friends and Family Account” the inmate can only call the number you have specified and since the funds go into your account you pay for the phone calls, video visits and messaging.

You can also pay for a phone call through your credit card. This is called Quick Connect. You can avail of this if your friend or loved one chooses to call you via Quick connect.

If you remember a few things then sending money will not be a problem. Before sending money, get the specific procedure for the facility that the inmate is incarcerated in. This information is available in websites. You need to navigate to the facilities page and read the   inmate funds section carefully to check out the rules the institution has. Remember also that part of the money may be used for fines and restitution while sometimes the items they buy with the funds can be taken away by other inmates. 

Never deposit any funds into somebody else’s account at the request of your friend in prison. This request may be a sign of illegal activity. The department of corrections discourages funds to be transferred in this manner. 

Make sure that you keep the receipts and order numbers.  If you are using the money order facility to send funds to an inmate then keep the stub with the money order number. This helps you to track a money order gone astray. Ensuring that you have a way of tracking not only provides you with recourse but is also your proof that the inmate got the funds. If you fear illegal activity don’t hesitate to get in touch with your inmates counsellor.