What to Send Your Incarcerated Loved One

letters on a table

There are many restrictions regarding the types of items you can send your friends and family who are in prison. Different facilities are responsible for establishing their own specific rules about the types of items you can mail incarcerated men and women. However, there are some general guidelines about what you can send to prisoners.

When choosing an item to include in your care package, it’s important that you think about the types of things that will bring joy to your loved one. You also want to choose items that will help him or her feel more connected to life back home. If you’re planning to send a care package to your incarcerated friend or relative, the following items are usually accepted in most prisons throughout the country.

Birthday and Holiday Cards

If your loved one has a birthday coming up, send him or her a card to mark the special day. This can help your relative remember the good times you had together on previous birthdays. It can also help him or her think about all the activities he or she wants to do on future birthdays.

You can also send your relative holiday cards to mark these occasions. Receiving a special card may be the only acknowledgement your friend receives to mark a holiday on his or her calendar. This is also an inexpensive way to make sure your loved one remembers his or her support system during these difficult times. However, make sure that the card is plain and does not include any foul language or crude humor. Depending on the facility, there may be rules about whether inmates can receive these types of cards.

Cash for the Commissary

If you have a family member in prison, he or she needs to have money to make purchases at the facility’s commissary. In fact, the following items cost money in most prisons throughout the United States:

  • Phone calls
  • Snacks
  • Hygiene products

By sending money to your loved one, you can make sure that he or she receives benefits from your gift that will last several days or weeks.  

Family Photos

Sending photos to your incarcerated family member is an excellent way to make sure he or she still feels connected to his or her relatives. This is especially true if the person in prison has children. When sending your photos, make sure they are not stapled or paper-clipped together. Neither of these items are allowed inside prisons.

Letters from Home

A simple, inexpensive way you can make sure your friend or relative in prison knows you care for him or her is by sending a hand-written card. This sentimental gesture is cheap to send, and it will provide your loved one with comfort. However, remember that it is likely that prison authorities will review the letter before passing it along to the prisoner. Therefore, it is important that the letter does not include any crude language or inappropriate jokes.

Paperback Books

Novels, autobiographies and poetry collections all serve as tools that can help your loved one pass time in prison. Many correctional facilities do not allow prisoners to receive hardback books. However, paperback books are usually acceptable. Keep in mind, though, that facilities may not let incarcerated people receive books that include explicit or violent themes.

When sending a book to a prisoner, make sure that you use a shipping provider that does not require a signature for the package to be delivered. If your loved one needs to sign for the package, he or she will not be able to receive it.