How to Send Money to an Inmate in the US

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How to Send Money to an Inmate in the US

Sending money to a prisoner in the USA involves understanding the intricacies of the correctional system's financial structure. Inmates rely on funds in their commissary accounts to purchase essential items and communicate with the outside world. This guide will walk you through the necessary steps for sending money to an inmate, shedding light on the importance of commissaries for inmates and outlining the various methods available.

What is a Commissary Account?

A commissary account serves as a bank account cum grocery store for each inmate within the correctional system. A commissary account facilitates the inmates securely receiving and using funds from friends and family. Using a commissary account, an inmate can buy various products, From clothing and snacks to hygiene products and entertainment items; the commissary plays a vital role in an inmate's daily life. Notably, it is a lifeline for prisoners to fund their daily needs.

Various Ways How Inmates Can Receive Money In Their Commissary Account

There are three primary ways inmates can fund their commissary accounts.

  • Firstly, they may work within the Correctional facility, earning a modest income. There are various opportunities available according to one's educational qualification.
  • Secondly, funds can come from trust funds, inheritances, or legal settlements.
  • The third and most common method involves friends and family members sending money to the inmate.

Various Methods of Sending Money To A Prisoner

The process of sending money varies based on the type of correctional facility, whether it's a jail, prison, or federal facility. Federal Prisons and some state prisons have centralized banking systems. Below are the most common options:

  • Cash deposits in the lobby or a kiosk.
  • Postal money orders are mailed directly to the institution.
  • Phone banking / Tele-services.
  • Net banking and Prison Apps.
  • Third-party services like Jpay, Western Union, and Moneygram.

Critical Information Required For Sending Money

Regardless of the chosen method, specific key details are essential when sending funds:

  1. Inmate's full committed name
  2. Inmate's identification number
  3. Current Facility name of the inmate

Before initiating any transaction, it's crucial to research and understand the specific procedures of a particular institution; you can find it on the facility page.

Who can send money to an inmate?

Most facilities mandate that you are either on the contact list of the inmate or an immediate family member to be able to send money to an inmate's commissary account. Before sending money, you can call the inmate's facility and confirm your eligibility status. You might need to go through an initial setup procedure to become eligible for sending money. For more details, contact the inmate's legal advisor or prison facility and complete the required documentation.

Considerations Before Sending Money For The First Time

Unfortunately, some challenges may arise when sending money to an inmate. Some states mandate that a percentage of received funds goes towards fines and restitution. Additionally, inmates may encounter other challenging situations when a fund is received. It's better to contact the inmate and the inmate's lawyer before sending any money.


Sending money to a prisoner might involve complex rules and procedures per the state and the current facility. By understanding the importance of commissaries, researching specific institution requirements, and being vigilant about potential issues, you can ensure a smooth process that supports the inmate's needs without compromising your financial security. Always keep records of transactions; if in doubt, contact the inmate's legal counsellor for guidance.