At the end of 2019, the United States was housing 1.43 million people in prisons, and 735,000 in local jails. It can be scary and confusing when a loved one is incarcerated.
One of the first things most people want to do is find out how to send money to an inmate. If you do not know what jail or prison they are in, you will also need to conduct a search for their location.
To learn how to send money, mail, postcards, and more to a person in prison, we have created this guide for you.
Why Send Money to an Inmate?
When a person goes to jail or prison, they are given the very basic necessities, such as clothing, food, and a bed. The money you forward to them helps them survive the harsh prison environment with a bit more comfort.
With funds from you, your prison inmate will be able to purchase necessary items from the commissary. These are items we take for granted:
- Hygiene products such as deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion
- Feminine sanitary products
- Additional food and snacks such as Raman noodles, cookies, chips, candy, coffee, etc.
- Clothing items include better shoes, boots, jackets, hats, underwear, etc.
- Stationery items such as pencils, pens, and paper, envelopes, postage, greeting cards
These items are not providing a luxurious lifestyle to the inmate. They are simply elevating them to a more tolerable living status.
Just because your inmate is in a cold, harsh environment does not mean they receive winter outerwear. Buildings are not kept comfortably warm, and your loved one might be cold day and night due to lightweight clothing or inadequate bedding.
Inmates receive small servings at meals and no snacks between. They will not receive the necessary writing tools to maintain contact with you. Studies show that prisoners with close family contact during incarceration have a better post-release outcome.
You might think the easiest way to provide funds for commissary purchases is to drop cash or a check into an envelope and send it to the incarceration center. Unfortunately, this will be returned to you with a violation notice. Every prison and jail will have specific requirements for getting funds into an inmate’s commissary, sending mail to a prisoner, and visiting.
You need to learn these steps to make sure all contact is appropriate, and you need to recheck the rules anytime your loved one transfers from one location to another.
What is a Commissary?
The commissary is a prisoner’s shopping center. The person in prison fills out a checklist indicating the items they wish to purchase.
The commissary verifies the prisoner has enough money in their account to cover the items they request and deducts the money from their commissary account. They then package the items for the prisoner.
A study of prison commissaries found that commissary contractors show a profit from sales to prisoners. The prices result in a financial burden to prisoners.
Average prisoner commissary spending in Illinois, Washington, and Massachusetts is more than $947 per person during a year. This considerably exceeds their ability to earn from prison jobs. The average inmate income is $180 to $660 per year in those same three states.
Contrary to what people believe, prisoners are not spending their money on luxuries. Most of their money is spent on food. Prison and jail cafeterias serve small portions of unappealing food that lacks nutrition.
The second level of spending is on hygiene products. Normal hygiene products, such as toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste are not given to prisoners in sufficient amounts.
If a prisoner requires over-the-counter products like antacid, eye drops, or hemorrhoid ointment, they must purchase them from the commissary. Females must purchase their own feminine hygiene items.
The difficulty a prisoner faces in trying to fill their stomachs and stay clean shows the need for using an online service that allows you to put funds into a prisoner’s account quickly.
Send Money to Inmate in Prison
There are three ways an inmate in prison receives commissary money. The prison inmate may receive funding if they receive a legal settlement, inheritance, or have a trust fund that pays them a regular allowance.
Most prisons have a work program in which prisoners have jobs they perform in exchange for payment. This is not going to provide them with much in the way of funds of extremely low wages. Prisoners receive between $0.14 to $2.00 per hour, with the national average being $0.63 per hour.
The most common way an inmate in prison receives funds is by a loved one depositing money into their account. Doing this directly through the jail or prison is a lengthy process. It usually requires filling out a payment coupon and mailing it with a money order to a third-party service.
Once they receive and process the payment, they transfer the money into the prisoner’s commissary account. With mailing, processing, and transfer time, the inmate is often waiting two weeks or more to receive their funds.
The better way is to use a convenient online service. You can fund your inmate’s commissary account using a credit card, debit card, or bank account. Indicate the type of payment you want to make, authorize the payment, and Pigeonly handles getting the money to your inmate.
Staying in contact with your loved one is easy with additional services available:
- Funding telephone accounts
- Affordable talk time rates
- Unlimited letters, postcards, and greeting cards
- Unlimited photos and web articles
These services provide your inmate with the emotional connections they need when living in an environment that is lonely, harsh, and often dangerous.
Information Necessary to Send Money to an Inmate
When you are ready to send commissary funds to an inmate, you will need to know their full name. You will also need to have the prison location and the inmate’s identification number. If you do not have this information, it is easy to find using a free locator tool.
Connect With Your Inmate Today
The focus of Pigeonly is to provide support for families dealing with the impact of incarceration. We provide numerous inmate services to make staying in contact and providing for your incarcerated loved one easy. Whether you need to fund telephone calls, write correspondence, or send money to an inmate, we can help.
To get you started we invite you to take advantage of our free 7-day trial. If you enjoy how easy it is to maintain contact with your prison inmate, simply pay our low monthly fee of $11.66 to continue. Give us a try today.