An inmate's funds are kept in an account that can be used to buy items in the prison commissary. A commissary is store that sells a variety of items including personal hygiene products, food, medications, paper, stamps, books, magazines, and even phone/computer time.
Using a Money Transfer Service
There are several services that provide fund transfers online to prisoners. You will need to contact the prison to see which ones they accept. If the prison accepts more than one service, research the fees and delivery times as these can vary. Some of the most commonly used services follow.
Use the Send Money to a Prisoner page and the drop-down menu to choose the prison and enter the amount. You will be prompted to set up a free account prior to entering your credit/debit card account information and sending the funds. The fee is about $4, and the money will arrive within two to four hours.
MoneyGram is the service of choice for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. To send money to an inmate, choose "Corrections" and the prison on the Pay Bills/Browse by Categories page. You will then be prompted to enter the amount and set up an account with your financial information and the inmate's details. Your credit/debit card will be charged about $5 for the processing fee and funds are sent the same day prior to 8:00 pm CST.
Setting up an account linked to your credit/debit card on Touchpay is free. The fees for processing your funds transfer vary by each institution. Transfers take between one to 24 hours to reach an inmate's account.
JPay has a helpful search function on their site to find the inmate you want to assist. Funds are transferred within one day. Fees vary across facilities, which you can look up on their interactive map page. You can also use JPay to fund a prisoner at a Federal facility via their partnership with MoneyGram. If you will be sending money regularly, JPay also offers the ability to set up a recurring payment.
Sending Money to an Inmate Online
The process to send money online to a prisoner is very similar despite the prison they are in. You will need to complete the same steps regardless of prison location.
- Contact the prison first to find out which third-party services they accept. Some only accept one while others will allow several options.
- Verify the prison's procedures for accepting money for a commissary account. Policies vary depending on the jurisdiction (federal, state, county) and whether the jail is government-run or maintained by a private company.
- Some will only allow family members to send money, whereas others will allow friends to send money if you are on the inmate's approved visitor list. These restrictions are set up to prevent any illegal transactions from occurring.
- Most also have limits on the amount of money you can deposit at one time, and these limits will vary by facility.
- You will need to get the inmate's pertinent information:
- Full name that they are registered under with the prison system
- Prison identification number
- Location in the prison (i.e. building name or number, cell block)
- Make sure you keep receipts of all of your transactions. Even if you maintain an account with the funds transfer service, it's always wise to have a backup copy of your own so you can track payments to ensure they were properly received.
- Be aware some prisons will take a portion of the amount deposited, and this should be spelled out in their policies. Usually this is to cover fines and restitution or other institutional costs.
Policies for money transfers are different for every state and for private prisons. All federal prisons follow the same guidelines, except for those that are privately run and have their own policies.
- You will need the prisoner's account number, which is their eight digit ID number followed by their last name, and the full spelling of the name they are registered under in the prison. You will also need the address of the facility and the Receive Code, which is 7932 for all federal facilities.
- If you don't know where they are or what their number is, you can use the Federal Bureau of Prisons "Find an Inmate" page.
- Funds must be sent via MoneyGram only (or JPay, which partners with MoneyGram).
- The maximum amount you can send is $300.
Funding an Inmate's Commissary Account
Overall, the process to send money to an inmate's account is the same online across services. You will need to find out the specific institutions' policies first to make sure you use their approved service providers, follow maximum amount guidelines, and are authorized to send money to the inmate.