Sending Mail to a California Inmate
Inmates incarcerated in California may receive allowable items from anyone who is not currently incarcerated, or anyone who has not been released within the past year. Anyone wishing to send an inmate a letter may do so, but the letter cannot contain anything that potential can put the safety and the security of the institution in jeopardy. This would include letters that talk about escape, planning a criminal act, coded messages, hand drawn or printed maps, gang communications, or photos of a nude/sexual nature.
Inmates may receive up to 10 pages at a time, the pages can be drawings, a child's school work, articles cut from a newspaper or magazine, but may not contain glue, stickers, glitter or any other embellishments such as lipstick perfume etc.
Inmates can have up to 10 photographs per envelope. The photos can be as large as 8"x10" but must not contain nudity, hand gestures, tattoos, or anything illegal or gang related. Whenever sending photos to an inmate it is a good idea to write the inmates name and ID number in pen on the reverse side of the photo. This will help ensure the photos are delivered to the right inmate.
Inmates are also allowed to receive cards, but they must not contain electronics, nudity or anything offensive in nature.
All mail is opened and inspected, sometimes read. At no time may you send any other items to an inmate directly from you. Inmates can receive books, magazines and newspapers but they must come directly from an approved source, we will give more information about how you can send these things to an inmate below.
When you write to an inmate you must always include your complete return address, and you must format your mail in the following manner:
Inmate Name, CDCR Number
Housing information (if known)
PO Box or Street address
City, State, zip code
Please note the CDCR Number is the California Department of Corrections Number. Usually mail is delivered within seven days of it arriving at the facility, but certain circumstances such as a lockdown or a large influx of mail during holidays can slow down delivery.
California inmates can also receive packages that can contain food, hygiene, and electronic items from an approved third party vendor (Union Supply Direct, or Access Securpak just to name a few). Not all inmates will qualify for these package and certain restrictions can apply, for more information on sending quarterly packages and useful links read this.
Mail Books and Magazines to California Inmates
California inmates are also allowed to receive new soft cover books directly from a publisher such as Amazon.com. You can also order magazines and newspapers from Amazon.com but there are restrictions on the content. None of the content in books, magazines or newspapers can contain maps, incite hate or violence, or have any type of nudity. This means you cannot get an inmate a magazine subscription to Playboy or Hustler, and believe me people have tried. There is a certain procedure to follow when sending books and magazines, so you will want to read more about sending these types of items here.
Sending Money to Inmates in California
All facilities in California allow you to send money to an inmate's trust account. The trust account is used to purchase various items from the institutions commissary and to pay fee's and fines. The institution can deduct up to 50% of a deposit if the inmate owes outstanding balances. The funds in an inmate's account will also follow the inmate if they are transferred to a different facility or are released.
Inmates in California can receive funds by mail, or online via an electronic funds transfer.
The first method of sending funds through the mail can be done by sending a certified check, money order, personal check, or cashier's check. The funds will be released to the inmate the fastest if the funds are sent via certified check. Money orders, cashier's checks and personal check may be held for up to 30 days from the date it is deposited.
When sending funds through the mail, some institutions will require you send it to the inmate, while other facilities (Folsom, Mule Creek, California State Prison Scramento, San Quentin and Wasco State Prison) will require you to send it to a contracted vendor called JPAY using this deposit form. The address to send it to is on the form.
If your inmate is not located in the facilities listed above, you can just mail the money order or check to the inmate. You will need to make the check payable to the inmates full name and ID number and include your complete name and return address.
You can also send funds to an inmate online through Access Secure Deposits or JPAY. These services are by far the faster way of sending funds to an inmate, but both will charge a fee to send the money, and you will need to know the inmate's ID number in order to send the funds. Please note if you need to lookup the inmate's ID number you can use our inmate search located on each facility page or on our inmate search page here.
Inmate's use the funds you send them to purchase items like stamps, envelopes, food, snacks, clothing, and hygiene products from the commissary. Read our guide about sending money to an inmate for more information.
California Inmate Phone Calls
Under no circumstances can an inmate receive incoming calls. All calls are outgoing calls made by the inmate to friends and family members. There are two methods inmates can make calls. The first is by calling someone collect. This method charges the person receiving the call and cannot be made to cellular phones. The second method of receiving inmate calls is through a prepaid service called Global Tel*link.
Global Tel Link, also known as GTL, is a privately run company that is contracted through the California Department of Corrections to provide inmates with a pre-paid calling solution. You can setup an account by calling GTL at 1-888-415-0377, or by visiting the GTL website, fee's and rates apply.
Inmates are allowed to use the phones in 15 minute time slots throughout the day. The phones are usually off by 9-10pm each night. Remember all phone calls may be monitored or recorded.
Learn more about calling an inmate by reading our inmate telephone calls guide.
Also, because the rate for local calls is much less then long distance calls you may be able to save tons of money on your prison phone calls. You can learn more about how you can save money on inmate calls here.