These are general guidelines for sending money to an inmate's trust account or commissary account; this is not specific to a particular facility, institution or jail. Inmates need money to access several privileges like weekly shopping at the commissary, making phone calls, using the email service where offered, using the electronic tablets where offered and paying their co-pay when needing the medical or dental services. Some county jails even require a per night payment for the jail’s expenses – required from the inmate.
What is commissary?
Commissary is a store within the correctional institution. Commissary day is usually held once a week and can only be enjoyed if the inmate has funds in their commissary account. An inmate's commissary account is like a bank account within the institution. If the inmate has a job, their paycheck is deposited into this account, too.
The Commissary sells various products that the inmates may purchase if they have money on their books. The commissary sells clothing, shoes, snacks and food, as well as hygienic products like soap, shampoo, and shavers. The commissary might also sell entertainment-related products like books, magazines, televisions, radios, playing cards, headphones, MP3 players, electronic tablets like an iPad (no internet access), songs and educational programming.
The commissary also sells is paper, envelopes, and stamps which allows the inmate to write their loved ones, friends and family. Most facilities will provide stamps and paper to inmates who are indigent – no money in their commissary account for at least 30 days.
How to send money to an inmate
Sending money to an inmate varies from state to state, depending if it is county, state or federal,their ways of accepting money for inmates’ changes by the money transfer company they’ve contracted with.
Federal Prisons and some state level prisons have centralized banking systems which means that you do not need to know where they are specifically, just that they are in the state systems of say the California, Texas, Florida DOC or the FBOP to name a few. Some facilities will allow you to deposit cash through the lobby window or at a standalone kiosk in the lobby or visitation room. Most facilities will also accept a postal money order mailed to the institution’s inmate mailing address made payable to the full inmate’s name.
- Inmate’s full committed name
- Inmate’s ID number
- Inmate’s location – or system like FBOP
Regardless of the method of sending funds, there are several key things you will need to know:
Before sending any funds you should find out what online transfer companies the institution your inmate is incarcerated in uses. You can find this information on our site by navigating to the facilities page click on the Money Transfer button under the address and phone number. Pay close attention to the rules of the facility. Sometimes they will require money senders are on the inmate's visitation list. Some correctional facilities have a deposit limit, like $200-300 at a time, but in federal, there is no limit.
- Western Union
- Access Corrections
Some of the money tranfer firms are:
Who else can access the money you send?
An inmate with fines or restitution will be subject to commissary/trust account garnishment. If the inmate has these financial obligations, they will be extracted from the inmate’s bank account. It may be a percentage or the entire amount depending on the situation. We recommend inmates who are going into their bid contact the counselor and make an arrangement beforehand. If you go in knowing they are taking 20-25% of all deposits is better than have them take it all and you find out in the commissary line when the account is zero.
Why is my inmate asking for more than I normally send?
This is generally a signal that the inmate is doing something they should not and need money to get them out of or through a situation. It could be gambling, it could be extortion it could be other things you don’t need to know on this forum (for now). Set boundaries with your inmate. Tell them that “this is the amount I can send each month” and that is it. There are no extras beyond the boundary.
Also, NEVER send money to the account of another inmate on your inmate’s instruction. This is a sign that something is not right. If the corrections people discover this, and they do more times than not, it will result in some severe disciplinary action to the inmate, and certainly the loss of all privileges.