Having a loved one in jail can be a heartbreaking situation. While there are a number of ways you can communicate with an inmate, strict regulations can make contacting an inmate somewhat difficult. Sometimes you can stop by for a personal visit if he or she is booked in a local prison. Other times, in situations where distance is an issue (like being out-of-state), writing a letter or giving a phone call are alternative methods for communicating with your loved one.
You can contact a prisoner in several different ways, ranging from personal visits to writing a letter.
Visiting the jail or prison website can provide you with helpful information and resources for contacting an inmate. Jails are used for inmates who are booked for less than a year or are awaiting trial. Prisons house inmates that are serving for more than a year.
Finding an inmates booking number can help you when sending a letter or requesting a visitation. You can look up an inmate’s booking number by using this Inmate Lookup Tool (for Utah) or by visiting the jail or prison website and searching through the directory.
Writing a letter
In many circumstances, an inmate will need to request for you to be on their contact list. Once an approval has been made, mail can be delivered to them. However, it’s important not to send confidential information, since all incoming and outgoing mail is usually subject to search and inspection jail staff. Items that may seem permitted could actually be prohibited including treats, money, greeting cards, or books. It’s important to check with the prison facility to determine what is and isn’t acceptable.
Once an approval process has been made, you can also visit an inmate on visitation day. The jail or prison website will typically post scheduling times for inmate visitation periods for you to use. When visiting an inmate, anything brought to give to the inmate must be inspected and approved by an officer before being brought in.
When communicating with an inmate via telephone, it’s important to note that you are unable to “call an inmate” but rather, he or she must call you during his or her allotted time at the phone. This is partly because inmates are on strict schedules. Sometimes they’re locked in their prison cell, other times they’re involved in rehabilitation programs or examinations. Because of limitations in availability, inmates need to make the outgoing call to you. For other reasons, calling an inmate simply isn’t allowed due to regulations.
Virtual visits are a form of computer-based video communication that is partly being embraced because it is less time consuming and requires fewer staff members to be available. Currently, only a fraction of the U.S. prison’s is currently using virtual visitations. Check out our article on Virtual Visits to Inmates for more information.
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